There cannot have been many instances when the runners in any given chase have between them won 30 of the 38 races they have previously contested over fences.
That is the case with the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown on Saturday and but for a couple of late lapses by Un De Sceaux, when hitting the deck late on when in command, the figure would almost certainly be an even more impressive 32 out of 38.
Altior, Un De Sceaux, Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados make for quite a quartet, although they will have to go some to match the exploits of the principals in 2004, when Moscow Flyer (ended his career rated 180) beat Azertyuiop (177) and Well Chief (178 at peak) in a memorable renewal with the 162-rated Cenkos left trailing 25 lengths behind in fourth.
Official ratings are not the be-all-and-end-all but, for what it counts, Altior goes into Saturday’s showpiece with a rating of 175, which is between 7lb and 17lb superior to that of his three rivals.
I expect Nicky Henderson’s outstanding eight-year-old to win in good style and am surprised he is not shorter in the betting than 8-11. I’m happy to stick him in accumulators at that price (see Option Two) but the below are less obvious.
This will be a first run over hurdles for Loose Chips since he ran in the 2013 Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival but he has plenty going for him in a race where plenty have questions to answer.
Charlie Longsdon’s habitual front-runner has become something of a standing dish at Sandown and confirmed his relish for the demands of the track when winning a 3m handicap chase by 11 lengths here on his latest start.
He is now rated 138 in that sphere but he is able to run off a mark of 133 here and the testing ground will be no inconvenience.
I guess he might balloon a couple of flights early on but with no other front-runners in the field he should get a soft time at the head of affairs. He’s a dangerous horse when getting his own way and might just run them ragged.
This race still causes me to shiver because last year it was a case of lay, lay, lay Blaklion. How could any horse be 7-4 to win a 15-runner staying handicap chase over the Grand National fences on bottomless ground?
At least he had the decency to hack up, rather than scramble home by a nose! There has to be a chance Blaklion will repeat the dose off a mark that is just 5lb higher but my eye is drawn to two others.
Crosshue Boy has a slight stamina question to answer but he was hard to fault last season as a novice and the way he picked off Dingo Dollar in a competitive 3m contest at Ayr in the spring was impressive. That form was strong even before the latter’s bold showing in the Ladbrokes Trophy last week.
A spin over hurdles in October should have helped tee up Crosshue Boy for this mission and his usual amateur rider is replaced by Grand National-winning jockey David Mullins. He was a market mover on Friday – the 14-1 has become 9-1 – but still appeals.
Midlands National winner Regal Flow will stay every yard and, a sound jumper at home in the mud, I can see him keeping on stoutly when others have cried enough. He initially went up 10lb for his exploits at Uttoxeter but he’s slipped back 5lb and looks overpriced at 25-1 with bet365 to make the frame.
I doubt Dr Richard Newland will every worry if he does not have another winner over the Grand National fences after the success of Pineau De Re in the big one in 2014 but he has a live Grand Sefton candidate in Catamaran De Seuil.
A strong traveller who usually jumps soundly, he has the right attributes for Aintree’s big fences and he looked an improved performer when winning easily on his return at Wetherby.
He has been pushed up 9lb but the six-year-old, now 5-11 for the yard, may still have more to give and he’s at home on deep ground.
How To bet £20 on Saturday:
1.20 Sandown: Loose Chips £2 win and £2 each-way at 8-1 with Ladbrokes
1.30 Aintree: Crosshue Boy £5 win at a general 9-1
1.30 Aintree: Regal Flow £2 each-way at 25-1 with bet365
3.15 Aintree: Catamaran Du Seuil £5 win at a general 6-1 with
£1.80 Win Yankee plus 20p Win fourfold
1.20 Sandown: Loose Chips
1.30 Aintree: Crosshue Boy
3.00 Sandown: Altior
3.15 Aintree: Catamaran Du Seuil
Select any odd to add a bet