Racing: Road Racer for a flyer

THE WORD "soft" features in the official going description at Aintree today, but even television viewers could hear the hooves rattling during yesterday's racing, and a surprising number of runners managed to get round in the John Hughes Chase. The lesson seemed to be that unless a deluge arrived overnight, the ground today will be good, at worst.

This means that it is even more unlikely that Istabraq (2.55) will be beaten in the Aintree Hurdle, in which he suffered only the second defeat of his hurdling career 12 months ago. The ground that day was more liquid than solid, and Tony McCoy somehow hauled Pridwell to the front a few strides from home.

There is no Pridwell this year, and while Stretarez, a Group winner on the Flat but unraced over hurdles, is a interesting recruit, he could hardly start with a more difficult assignment. Istabraq will start at short odds, but racegoers can at least profit spiritually from the chance to see one of the finest hurdlers since the War.

Financial benefits should by then have been garnered from the opening races. In the handicap hurdle, Toto Toscato will be popular after his third in Cheltenham's County Hurdle, but there is also much to like about ROAD RACER (nap 1.45).

He was a disappointment at Cheltenham, pulled up when tailed off in the same race, but was rejuvenated by a visor on fast ground at Newbury two weeks ago. If the headgear has a similar effect today, he is a sporting 8-1 chance to beat 12 rivals, including Dr Jazz, who looks too short a price.

The interesting names in the two-mile handicap chase are Green Green Desert, who was a rogue on the Flat, and Edelweis Du Moulin. Green Green Desert ran fourth in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham but often does well, without winning. Edelweis Du Moulin (next best 2.20), though, is a winner and proved it by taking the last race here yesterday.

BETTING 2.55: Tote: 4-6 Istabraq, 7-2 French Holly, 7-1Deano's Beeno, 12-1 Mister Morose, Stretarez, 20-1 Juyush, 33-1 Midnight Legend