Backstage, Gordon Elliott’s robust staying chaser who ran well to be tenth in last year’s John Smith’s Grand National behind Ballabriggs, is building up to a repeat assault on the ‘world’s greatest steeplechase’ by carrying all before him in the point-to-point field in his native Ireland, writes Elliot Slater.

The 10-year-old will be competing in the feature Aintree marathon contest for the third successive year having been in the process of running a very big race in the 2010 renewal when right on the heels of the leaders at the Canal Turn second time round he was hampered by a loose horse who ran straight across him and eventually unseated the luckless Davy Condon in the BetVictor racing.

Elliott ran the son of Passing Sale in point-to-points prior to his good effort in last year’s race and has decided to also adopt similar tactics this year, a ploy that thus far appears to be having the desired effect as Backstage rattled up his fifth successive win between the flags when slamming Hangover in impressive fashion by eight-lengths at Tinahely on January 15, easily justifying odds of 1/4 laid about him and those Stan James free bets.

The plan appears to be to have one more outing before heading to the Cheltenham Festival on March 16 where Backstage will attempt to maintain his winning run in the coveted Christies Foxhunter Chase, the race that follows the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the four-day Festival meeting. Betting firms have long been wary of the presence of Backstage in the list of possible runners for the Foxhunter Chase and moved to trim him further after his latest success to now be clear ante-post favourite at best odds of 6/1, while 40/1 are currently the somewhat more appealing odds of return in the Grand National market.

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