Mullins stars should avoid Vautour's calamitous fate
A day after Vautour crashed out and Willie Mullins gained, lost and regained the lead in the British trainers' championship, it might be advisable to treat today's trio of hot favourites with a degree of caution.
Vautour's spectacular exit in the JLT Melling Chase was yet another reminder that there is no such thing as a certainty in this game.
Mullins is going to need plenty luck on his side if he is to wrest Paul Nicholls' crown from him, but you'd like to think that Yorkhill and Douvan will oblige him on today's grand Aintree finale.
In the quest for value, we'd like to find something with which to take on the long odds-on shots, likewise Thistlecrack in the Stayers' Hurdle. However, boring as it may be, there isn't much in the way of viable alternatives.
With Yanworth absent, Yorkhill looks a class apart in the EZ Trader Mersey Novices' Hurdle. He was an absolutely emphatic winner of the Neptune at Cheltenham, emerging from the Cotswolds as one of the most exciting youngsters in training.
In this £75,000 Grade One, he has 12lbs and more in hand on official ratings over his six rivals. The unbeaten son of Presenting has the cut of a future Gold Cup horse, so it will be a major disappointment if he doesn't stretch his 100pc track record to six under Paul Townend, who steps in for the luckless Ruby Walsh.
Douvan is arguably even more precocious. A five-time Grade One scorer, he has been touted as the best horse in Mullins' yard.
As such, the stunning Arkle Trophy victor is an incredible prospect, and none of his four rivals in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase have done anything to suggest that they will trouble him.
The one that remains something of an unknown quantity is Henry de Bromhead's Alisier D'Irlande.
Andrew Lynch's free-running mount has been a pretty facile winner of each of its three completed starts for the excellent Co Waterford handler.
In his last two chases, he has produced electric rounds of jumping at Naas and Leopardstown to win as he liked, and there is a possibility that he could yet prove a very serious operator.
He will need to be, though, because Douvan is exceptional. Indeed, with Alisier D'Irlande almost certain to set a furious gallop, it might help Townend's cause, as it is always nice to be able to take a lead on a novice.
In the event that they avoid the calamity that befell Vautour, Douvan and Townend are expected to see off Alisier D'Irlande. Mullins has a stab at Thistlecrack with Shaneshill, whose RSA Chase form behind Blaklion took a dent yesterday.
With Alpha Des Obeaux not turning up, Gigginstown Stud rely on Gordon Elliott's Prince Of Scars.
He is a real improver and, if the ground were to get testing, then he would be interesting.
Having said that, Thistlecrack has looked as indestructible on heavy as he has on a decent surface.
Tom Scudamore's brilliant partner should complete what would be a fantastic Grade One Aintree hat-trick for Colin Tizzard.
In the opening three-mile handicap hurdle, Elliott's Eshtiaal is worth a look under rising star Jack Kennedy. Three times a winner last year before finishing second in an American Grade One in October, Eshtiaal does like decent ground, so rain wouldn't be good for him.
If the ground holds up, though, he returned with a fine win at Dundalk recently, which will have left him spot on for this.
While he is two pounds out of the handicap, Kennedy is value for more than the three pounds that he claims, so they are fancied to have a big say here.
If In Doubt, an unlucky loser at Cheltenham, is a threat under Barry Geraghty. Later on, with Geraghty unable to do the weight, Mark Walsh falls in for a mount on Cernunnos in the handicap chase.
Twice a Kempton runner-up recently, Cernunnos gets the nod to add to Tom George's fine run of form.