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Master Dee to use Newbury as stepping stone to 2019 Grand National

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 28/02/2019 Chris Wright

Master Dee is set to head to Newbury on Saturday ahead of a possible crack at the 2019 Randox Health Grand National.

Fergal O'Brien's 10-year-old was among the 16 entries for Saturday's William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury.

He is also entered in the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse five weeks on Saturday and he is guaranteed a run as he is 35th on the current list of 100 entries having been handed 10st7lb in the weights.

Master Dee is a best-priced 66-1 with BetVictor, Skybet and Unbet for the Aintree marathon on April 6.

He has run only once this season due to injury when he was pulled up at Market Rasen in October.

He has had wind surgery since then and trainer O'Brien is hoping he can go well at Newbury this weekend when he will be reunited with jockey Barry Geraghty, who rode him to victory at Kempton this time last year.

O'Brien said: "When he ran at Market Rasen, he got a bad overreach which has held him up a little bit.

"It normally takes a run to put him spot on, but we're hoping we've got him as fit as we can at home to do himself justice.

"Until Market Rasen, he'd never been out of the first three in over 20 races. He's so consistent so we're going there with a lot of hope and our fingers crossed.

"The National is definitely being considered. When Barry (Geraghty) won on him at Kempton last year, he got off and said you could run him over as far as you'd like, he'll stay any trip.

"The Aintree fences and the flat track will suit him down to the ground and he's got a lovely racing weight, so I'll be excited to run him there.

"In the old days you'd think 151 would be too high to win a National, but you need it now just to get in, and rightly so - there's £1 million up for grabs, you want the best horses.

"Someone asked me one year after Alvarado didn't get in after finishing fourth the previous two years if we should have automatic qualification but I didn't agree, the race is increasing in quality every year."

A field of 16 has been declared for the Newbury Grade Three feature, with championship-chasing trainer Paul Nicholls responsible for three contenders, including another Grand Natiional entrant in Warriors Tale.

Owned by triple winner Trevor Hemmings, the 10-year-old scored over the Grand National fences in the Grand Sefton Chase in December. Although he was also pulled up in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster last month on his most recent start.

a person riding a horse in a field: Joe Farrell, ridden by Adam Wedge wins the Scottish Grand National at Ayr Racecourse on Saturday, April 21 2018  Picture by Jeff Holmes/PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Joe Farrell, ridden by Adam Wedge wins the Scottish Grand National at Ayr Racecourse on Saturday, April 21 2018 Picture by Jeff Holmes/PA

Meanwhile another Aintree possible, last year's Scottish National hero Joe Farrell, will make his belated seasonal return on the card at Newbury in the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Chase.

The 10-year-old has not run his Ayr success in April after picking up an injury during a schooling session.

Trainer Rebecca Curtis believes he is over the slight issue and is ready to return.

She is using Newbury as a prep for either the Grand National at Aintree or a return to Ayr to defend his crown in the Scottish version.

He is currently 71st on the list of Grand National entries having been allotted 9st12lb. But he is not guaranteed to make the cut as only the top 40 on the list will line up at Aintree.

Curtis said: "It was a small setback, but he's absolutely perfect now. Unfortunately he's missed a couple of races so we're keen to get him out on Saturday. Hopefully he'll he'll come on for it.

"He's had a long time off. He's a big burly horse so we need to get a run into him.

"We hope to get him out once or twice and then run him in whichever he gets into in April - the Grand National or the Scottish National. That would be the main target."

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