Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The World’s Greatest Race...

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. 

The 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 miles. 

The 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. 

The 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. 

Having 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.

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