We move into the middle afternoon of Aintree’s big meeting, hopefully with some profit to show from a thrilling first day on Merseyside.
The top-class action keeps coming, with another four Grade One races taking places on Friday, including the Topham Chase over those most iconic of fences.
For me the most exciting showdown on day two is the clash of Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos and Queen Mother Champion Chase runner-up Min in the JLT Melling Chase (15:25).
They’ll engage here on the 2m5f terms that Michael O’Leary’s Balko Des Flos prevailed last month but at 7/4 I believe Min is the one to beat.
He’s got a little touch of class about him and ran a highly commendable second to Altior at Cheltenham last month. He’s proven over 2m4f on heavy ground in Ireland this season, so there should be few fears about his stamina.
His stablemate Un De Sceaux wilted to Balko Des Flos in the Cotswolds last month but, perhaps now, the ‘Iron Horse’ is starting to ease down in his veteran years, a suspicion that looks plausible after his Fairyhouse run since – despite the fact he eventually won there – and Min can give Willie Mullins some revenge for that Cheltenham turnaround by account for Henry De Bromhead’s charge.
It could be a good afternoon too for Britain’s champion trainer Nicky Henderson, who holds several strong fancies.
In the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (14:20) his Claimantakinforgan should have a big run in him at odds of 6/1.
He finished fair fifth in the Supreme Novices’ last month at Cheltenham, the standout form on offer here. None of the quartet that came home in front of him will re-oppose now and this represents a decent chance for Claimantakinforgan to register a Grade One victory.
He was well thought of at Seven Barrows this season and the feeling lingers that perhaps the ground at Cheltenham wasn’t ideal for him last time. With the prospect of a slightly better surface on this flat circuit, he’s a player today.
Later in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (16:40) it may pay to give a second chance to Santini, who finished third in the Albert Bartlett last month.
Given his time over, Nico de Boinville might choose to position him a little close to the pace than was the case there as, whilst he made some eye-catching ground between the final two flights, the winner Kilbricken Storm had flown the nest from a prominent position.
Santini showed enough to merit the suggestion there will be compensation here at odds of 11/4.
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