The Melling Chase (3.25 Aintree) has an amazing role of honour, including both this year’s Gold Cup and Champion Chase winners in Don Cossack and Sprinter Sacre, whilst former Champion Chasers Finnian’s Rainbow, Master Minded and Moscow Flyer have all been impressive winners since the turn of the century.
The race is run over 2-miles and 4-furlongs, with 16 fences to jump, whilst the race itself derives its name from the Melling Road which passes through the racecourse, which in turn takes its name from the nearby village of Melling.
The last 10 renewals have been won by five 9-year-olds, three 8-year-olds, and two 7-year-olds, whilst only Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh can boast a victory from this year’s represented trainers and jockeys.
Despite the prestige of the race, only 6 runners are set to go to post this year.
Al Ferof 8/1
Dan Skelton’s charge bids to become only the third 11-year-old to win in 26 runnings, and his two previous trips to Aintree don’t exactly inspire confidence. He was a 12-length third to Menorah here in 2012, and finished 36-lengths behind Don Cossack in the 2015 renewal. Did stay-on into fourth behind Vautour at Cheltenham in this year’s Ryan Air, but never looked like winning.
Bids to become the first 6-year-old to win the race, and has been in poor form this season. However, he did win the novice race over course and distance at last year’s meeting, beating Vibrato Valtat by four-lengths. May have been freshened-up since his last run in January, with this an obvious target.
Gods Own 20/1
Second as a novice at both Cheltenham and Aintree last season, and his 9-length fourth in this year’s Champion Chase was another decent effort. Not convinced he wants this extra 4-furlongs though, but trainer Tom George in fine form with 4 winners from his last 8 runners.
Surprisingly, this grand old servant hasn’t been to Aintree since 2011 when he was a fine third to Master Minded and Albertas Run. Would be the first 12-year-old to win and, whilst no horse surely deserves a big one, he’s looked in slight decline all season. Mick Channon does have his horses in good form though.
Again looked an absolute superstar when winning this year’s Ryan Air, and he’s well-clear on the ratings. Yet to run at Aintree, but no reason why he shouldn’t run to his best, and should win.
Vibrato Valtat 25/1
Plenty of form behind some big guns this year, but none of that form entitles him to get near Vautour, and was behind Clarcam here last year.
Big-hitters will no doubt be wading into back Vautour at a big price, and it’s hard to see beyond him if he stands up. Meanwhile, value hunters will be looking at the forecast, and Clarcam to finish second to Vautour may be the best value of the race.