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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Junior team mull weekend planHeadlines
Junior

Connections of Junior have yet to decide whether the high-class chaser will make his seasonal reappearance at Newbury or Newcastle this weekend.

The David Pipe-trained nine-year-old has been a fantastic servant to his owners Middleham Park Racing, winning at Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival in the last couple of years.

He was an early casualty when a leading fancy for the Grand National at Aintree in April and he was pulled up on his only subsequent start in the Scottish equivalent, but he is set for an imminent return, either carrying top-weight in the At The Races Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle, or taking his chance in the far more competitive Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.

Middleham Park racing manager Nick Bradley said: "I think we're going to wait until Thursday morning and then make a decision about which way we're going.

"Obviously it's difficult to say what ground conditions are going to be like at this stage.

"Newcastle is the easier opportunity and it would be nice to start him off in an easier race to get his confidence up, but then he would have a lot of weight in very testing ground. We don't really know what the ground is going to be like at Newbury yet, it might be the same situation there, so we'll just have to see.

"David tells me he's in good heart and he's had a wind operation since his run in the Scottish National."

Bradley feels a second Grand National tilt is unlikely for Junior, with a return to Cheltenham on his long-term agenda.

"We'll obviously discuss it with the owners but at this stage I'd say it's probably unlikely he'll go back to Aintree," he said.

"He's run some of his best races around Cheltenham so it might be more sensible to look for something at the Festival with him, instead of looking towards the National."

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