FAKIR D’Oudairies (160+) made it back-to-back wins in the Melling Chase on Friday and remains unbeaten at around two and a half miles when not competing against the imperious Allaho.
Mark Walsh was always waiting in the wings off the swinging pace before clearing right away from his field at the second last to clock a slightly faster time-figure than last year.
However, it is the other chase on the card which will take the focus as Ahoy Senor (158+) made Aintree his own again, adding a Grade 1 chase to last year’s equivalent over hurdles.
Allowed to make his own running, the son of Dylan Thomas jumped much cleaner than at Cheltenham, although somewhat to his right on occasions, before powering clear when asked to seal the race.
The extent of his finishing effort saw him post a faster closing sectional than Joseph O’Brien’s seven-year-old - from the cross fence, Ahoy Senor came home in 55.7secs while it was 57.3secs for Fakir D’Oudairies.
The overall time-figure of the novice contest was only slightly slower than the Melling Chase and is supported by Fury Road (153) running to the same level as when winning his Grade 1 at Leopardstown.
Jonbon (143+) gained a deserved Grade 1 success in the Top Novices’ Hurdle despite not performing to the same level on the clock as when second to Constitution Hill at Cheltenham.
Race to follow
That said, using the data compiled by Nicky Henderson’s gelding, I recommend the opening handicap hurdle as a race to follow, with the winner in particular a candidate for stepping into graded company.
The overall time-figure clocked by Langer Dan (153) was faster than Jonbon when adjusted for distance and the circuit time and closing sectionals were in close enough proximity to the Grade 1 contest to back up the higher rating.
Fils D’Oudairies (151) was unlucky to have such a fast finisher running him down after racing close to such a frenetic gallop and will win races for Nicky Henderson.
Broomfield Burg (143+) is also worth another chance over two and a half miles as he was caught up the backwash of Navajo Pass falling at the seventh hurdle.
The six-year-old did well to get back into contention given the strong gallop, I would suggest his effort is upgraded to finishing third.