The greatest race in the world takes place at Aintree this week. “So far, so obvious” I can hear you thinking. But the race I am talking about will not have 40 runners and take place over 30 fences on Saturday, it will have just six runners and takes place over two and a half miles on Friday.
Melling Chase may not attract as many headlines as the Grand National but it
looks set to launch a new legend in the lore of horseracing. Sprinter Sacre has
already proven that he is the best two mile chaser of the year and probably the
best for many years. Today though, he might just kindle a flame that will never
be extinguished in the hearts of jump racing fans – by thrashing two of the
best horses currently in training over their best distance of two and a half
gelding has been nicknamed the “black aeroplane” by his trainer and his
unbeaten sequence of eight steeplechase wins have been visually impressive,
culminating in the defeat of a previous Champion Chaser in the shape of Sizing
Europe at the Cheltenham Festival last month. In the Melling Chase he will have
to prove that he has the stamina for an additional half mile while tackling Cue
Card and Flemenstar, who have posted the best performances over the distance in
Britain and Ireland respectively this season. Add last year’s Champion Chaser
Finian’s Rainbow into the mix and you have the most compelling race of the
season. Please, please watch it if you can.
support act for the Melling chase is a little-known four and a half mile
handicap chase on Saturday. If your name is Bob, Harry, Oscar, Bill, Paddy, Al,
Jon or Balthazar you won’t have any trouble finding a horse to back – you’ll
find all these names amongst the runners for the big race.
backed Ballabriggs at 33/1 when the weights were announced, I should be quite
content that he is now 20/1 and looks likely to shorten further. But I’ve a
slight concern over the form of the McCain yard and there are a couple more
big-priced contenders that I can’t allow to go un-backed including the Willie
Mullins pair Quiscover Fontaine and Quel Esprit, both at 50/1. Among the more
favoured runners, Imperial Commander (16/1) has plenty of class and an
attractive weight, while Cappa Bleu (12/1) looks the best of the contenders
that ran in the race last year.