The feature event on the Mildmay course on day 2 of the Grand National Festival at Aintree this Friday is the Grade 1 JLT Melling Chase over 2m 4f (15:25).
Politologue won this in gutsy fashion this year and there’s every reason to fancy him to do so again in this renewal.
Trained by Paul Nicholls, this eight-year-old grey gelding toughed it out to hold the re-opposing Min by a neck on Merseyside 12 months ago.
It was a second Grade 1 success of last season for Politologue, who had earlier taken the 2017 Tingle Creek over 2m at Sandown.
The step up in trip seemed to suit and his Aintree heroics were no fluke as he scored on reappearance in the 2m 5f 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Politologue ran out a half-a-length too good for Charbel and so went up in distance again for the King George – Kempton Park’s big Boxing Day feature.
While he didn’t get that trip and was fourth to Clan Des Obeaux, then occupied the same spot to another Nicholls inmate in Cyrname in the Ascot Chase, Politologue wasn’t done.
If he showed vulnerability to younger and improving types in those runs, then he bounced back to form in a major way when second to Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He had finished a fourth in that big Cheltenham Festival contest last season, so this was a marked improvement on that.
Politologue actually held every chance over the final fence, but then Altior’s afterburners came on and he just couldn’t go with him in the closing stages.
That is evidence that Politologue retains plenty of ability. He is 5/2 with BetVictor to become just the sixth horse in history to win two Melling Chases and value to do so.
Min must do more, Waiting Patiently feared
Politologue certainly has nothing to fear from the Tom George trained veteran God’s Own, who pulled up at Cheltenham.
He now also looks to have the beating of Min, who had taken the John Durkan at Punchestown over a similar trip and the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown in good style before a poor fifth in the Queen Mother.
There is very little to choose on ratings between Politologue and Min and so the bare form at Cheltenham suggests something was amiss.
Willie Mullins’ Irish raider has never actually won a race outside of the Emerald Isle and you can pick holes in his form this season.
The John Durkan is usually won by a stayer, but was run on good instead of desperate ground for a change. Shattered Love, who chased Min home, hasn’t really fired this season.
He also beat Ordinary World , who has won one chase in 15 attempts, by six lengths at the Dublin Racing Festival.
If Min is worth opposing again, then Waiting Patiently who missed the Cheltenham Festival yet again, is the danger. He was three lengths in front of Politologue when placing in the Ascot Chase.
Ruth Jefferson’s northern raider does go here though. He is rated 2lb superior to Politologue and is more lightly-raced, but connections seem to have treated Waiting Patiently with kid gloves at times.
He is certainly a fresher horse, but this is no easier than the Ascot Chase and has no experience of Aintree. Waiting Patiently is a shorter price at 15/8 with betway, but may have less going for him in the context of this race.
Champ out for compensation in Sefton
The Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (16:40) betting is headed by Champ, who is 4lb clear of the field on ratings and stepping up in trip to 3m for the first time.
Trained by Nicky Henderson for leading Irish owner JP McManus, the seven-year-old brings Grade 1 form into the race.
After finishing a neck runner-up to Vinndication on hurdles bow last January, he showed the benefit of that experience when remaining a novice for this season.
Champ won minor events at Perth and Warwick in facile fashion, before scoring on handicap debut at Newbury. He then took the step up to the highest level in his stride when capturing the Challow just after Christmas.
That made Champ a leading contender for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but he went down bravely by two lengths to City Island.
Connections stepping him up in trip off the back of that fine effort is very interesting. It suggests they see Champ as a future stayer.
Few in the 13-runner field have won over the distance, but Dallas Des Pictons has in handicap company at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Like Champ, this Gordon Elliott trained six-year-old was a Cheltenham Festival runner-up when down in trip for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
The return to a flatter track and step back up to 3m look sure to suit Dallas Des Pictons, who is 5/1 best with Unibet. Warren Greatrex has the unbeaten Emitom trying this trip for the time too.
He’ll have to step up on previous efforts but, given the what Lisnagar Oscar – a horse he beat by five lengths at Ffos Las – has achieved since in winning a Grade 2 over the trip, Emitom has claims as well.
Downtown Getaway has each-way squeak
Double figure prices are available on the remainder, and that reflect the need for them all requiring a step up on previous form.
Champ’s Seven Barrows stable companion Downtown Getaway is a possible each-way angle into this race now up in trip.
This lightly-raced six-year-old has won an Irish bumper before joining Henderson and one of two hurdles starts since arriving in Lambourn.
Downtown Getaway stayed on really nicely on Clarence House day at Ascot to get up in the shadows of the post and score by a short-head.
That run was over an extended 2m 5f and, judging by his pedigree, it may be a case of the further the better. Odds of 14/1 with William Hill look a bit of value for Downtown Getaway who is unexposed compared to some of the bigger names in the line-up.
Irish raider Walk Away is also interesting as he followed-up on his point-to-point success with a taking debut at Thurles over 2m 6f.
Trained by Henry De Bromhead, this six-year-old was pushed clear after taking things up before the last and scored by nine lengths.
Robbie Power again takes the ride and that catches the eye. Walk Away is clearly open to stacks more progressive after just the one start under rules and, at 12/1 with Boyelsports, is another to consider betting on each-way in this.
Bumper terms favour Santa Rossa
Friday’s card closes with the Grade 2 bumper and unbeaten Irish raider Santa Rossa looks to have plenty in her favour.
Trained by Dermot McLaughlin, the five-year-old mare has already won at this level albeit against her own sex.
Santa Rossa has run out a comfortable three-length winner of both her starts in the Emerald Isle and now takes on the geldings for the first time.
Connections could have raced her in the other Grade 2 bumper at this meeting on Thursday, but terms was not so favourable as they are here.
Although penalised for her Dublin Racing Festival success last time out, that only partially offsets the 7lb sex allowance Santa Rossa receives from fellow older males.
She is getting 3lb from them and only giving away the same weight away to the four-year-olds in opposition. At 100/30 with Betfair, Santa Rossa looks a great bet on these terms to triumph.
Given other leading contenders McFabulous and Colin Tizzard’s Master Debonair have more runs under their belts, they are actually relatively exposed in relation to her.
The former is two from three for Nicholls, while the latter ran below par on his latest outing when 12th in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival.
That puts Santa Rossa in with major claims of landing the hat-trick and she has plenty going for her as a result.