Mendip doubtful for Newbury

Mendip Express could skip his intended prep run for the Cheltenham Festival at Newbury on Saturday.

Harry Fry's eight-year-old is three from three in novice chases this season having returned to racing under Rules following a fruitful spell in the pointing fields.

Fry had always intended to use the IJF 50th Anniversary Novices' Chase as a stepping stone to either the RSA Chase or the four-mile National Hunt Chase, but the very testing ground could see him miss a clash with the likes of Sam Winner, Gevrey Chambertin and Smad Place.

"It's up in the air whether Mendip will run or not," said Fry.

"He's done all his work and we know he acts in the ground but we have to decide whether it will be beneficial or not.

"I'm reluctant to run and give him a very hard race in the ground just four and a half weeks before Cheltenham.

"At this stage I would say it is very much in the balance. We don't want to leave the Festival behind at Newbury."

Fry is keen to run Thomas Brown in the Listed bumper, a race the Dorset trainer won with Oscar Rock 12 months ago, on the same card.

"Thomas Brown will run in the bumper. He won over course and distance impressively in November and this has been his target ever since," said Fry.

"He's done very nicely since and is a bit more rangy than Oscar Rock. He's a three-mile chaser in the making."