Win, lose or draw, Albertas Run deserves top billing on the second day of the Aintree meeting. Having typically gone down with all guns blazing in his quest for a fourth Cheltenham Festival success last month, he might be pardoned for running a little flat in the John Smith's Melling Chase – but the fact is that he has managed first and second in the past two runnings, despite having a week less to soak up similarly hard races.
All things considered, then, he looks palatable value today against Finian's Rainbow, who has hitherto seemed to run out of stamina when tried over this longer trip.
Admittedly that rival is settling much better nowadays, and powered up the hill when exploiting a chaotic situation at the last fence in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. At the odds, however, it might be worth taking a chance with the horse who caused all the problems there, with his fall on the first circuit.
That mishap crowned a season of ghastly anti-climax for Wishfull Thinking (3.05) but connections hope that he may be back to the sort of form he was showing as a novice, this time last year. He bolted up from Medermit at this meeting and then gave no fewer than 21lb to a very useful mare at the Punchestown Festival.
The unbeaten Fingal Bay represents the same connections as favourite for the other Grade One prize on the card. His form was made to look better still when Simonsig, his Sandown victim, won so impressively at the Festival, which Philip Hobbs's charge was obliged to miss with a couple of problems. He will plainly be hard to beat but the odds will be correspondingly short, and horses often fall short of their best late in the season after an interruption to their training schedule. In the circumstances, there may be better value about Tap Night (4.15). He has already made a big contribution to a big season for his stable, and could improve again at this trip.
Vulcanite (2.0) can cause a turn-up in the other novice hurdle, tried in a tongue-tie after being one of the last off the bridle before fading at Cheltenham. Yes Tom (2.30) can also cause a shock in a novice chase where Champion Court must prove his stamina and none of the others showed their best last time, while Little Josh (3.40) looks tailor-made for the big fences.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Cape Dutch (4.50 Aintree) Unexposed at this kind of distance and looked as though he remains ahead of his rating when tanking back into contention after being hampered at Cheltenham last time, only to drop away after a mistake.
Little Josh (3.40 Aintree) Back down to a good mark now and as one who jumps boldly in the van he could well have been primed for this, faring as well as might be expected in tough company since his return.
One to watch
Gabriel (Richard Fahey) Disappeared after the Coventry last year but made a promising return at Musselburgh last Saturday, going well when repeatedly short of room in midfield.
Where the money's going
On His Own, the mount of Ruby Walsh, is 14-1 from 16-1 with Betfred for the John Smith's Grand National.