Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the Grade 3 Topham Handicap Chase over 2m 5f and the Grand National fences at Aintree twice before, and the trainer has two contenders in this year’s renewal on Friday (16:05).
Preference is for Ballyhill over Flying Angel now he’s better off with top weight Janika from a fine run when third at Cheltenham last time out.
The eight-year-old won on the Mildmay course back in December and has since been far from disgraced when placing on all subsequent starts.
Ballyhill was put up 10lb by the handicapper for his Aintree victory, but then still reasonably competitive off 144 when going down by just under five lengths to Aso stepping back up into Grade 3 company on New Year’s Day.
When you consider the winner came out and ran a huge race when chasing home Frodon in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, that form is strong.
Ballyhill was then nine lengths behind Janika, but now meets Nicky Henderson’s leading Topham hope on 7lb better terms.
The Grand National fences are also a great leveller; so, taking the unique obstacles and the swing in weight into account, the 12/1 with Paddy Power about Ballyhill looks good each-way value.
Flying Angel was only beaten seven lengths when fifth to Beware The Bear in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m 1f at Cheltenham. He also runs off a 6lb lower mark than when 10th to Ultragold in this race last year.
That run last time out, coupled with the ease in his handicap rating, means Flying Angel is an alternative to consider to stable companion Ballyhill at 20/1 with 888Sport. Bookmakers are paying five and even six places.
Peregrine Run a possibility if ground dries out
Should the soft ground on Merseyside get the chance to dry out, then Irish raider Peregrine Run also has plenty going for him. Trained by Peter Fahey, he is one of two Irish raiders to consider.
Peregrine Run is five from 11 over fences and has placed on three other occasions. His victories include over 2m 4f in a graded handicap at Killarney last summer and when stepped up to 2m 7f for a Listed chase at Wexford.
A spin over hurdles when second at Thurles to Scarpeta following a winter break may have put Peregrine Run spot on to do himself justice if taking to the unique spruce fences here.
At 14/1 with Ladbrokes, the nine-year-old again gets the services of Barry Geraghty in the saddle and that is a huge plus.
Another from the Emerald Isle who could go well is the Becher Handicap Chase fourth Call It Magic now dropped down in distance.
This Ross O’Sullivan trained nine-year-old put in a very bold effort over the National fences in December, but weakened on the long run-in and lost places as a result. Call It Magic jumped well though, and clearly took the obstacles.
His last wins were over 2m 7f and 2m 6f in the autumn of 2017, but he was also far from disgraced when a 14-length seventh to General Principle in the 2018 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse over 3m 5f.
It might be he just doesn’t get home over trips of three miles or further. This race may be more within the compass of Call It Magic and, at 10/1 with Boylesports, he also has claims of making the frame here.