Vautour poised to face five inferior rivals in Melling Chase
Vautour is as short as 1/3 to make light work of five JLT Melling Chase rivals over which he is rated a stone or more higher.
Willie Mullins' exceptional chaser recorded his third Cheltenham Festival success when turning in a trademark display of spring superiority in last month's Ryanair Chase.
In tomorrow's £200,000 Grade One at Aintree, he will be re-opposed by embattled Ryanair rivals Al Ferof (fourth) and Vibrato Valtat (fell).
The Queen Mother Champion Chase fourth and fifth God's Own and Somersby are also declared for the extended two-mile-three-furlong contest, while Gordon Elliott's Clarcam completes the field under Bryan Cooper.
A year ago, Clarcam beat Vibrato Valtat in today's Manifesto Novices' Chase, though he has failed to win in five subsequent starts.
Ruby Walsh, who rode Clarcam in the Manifesto and will be aboard Vautour tomorrow, has been confirmed as Boston Bob's rider in Saturday's Crabbie's Grand National.
Patrick Mullins will partner On His Own for the champion trainer, while Tom Scudamore has opted for Ballynagour of David Pipe's trio. Robbie Power is pencilled in for Enda Bolger's JP McManus-owned Gilgamboa.
Nina Carberry needs two to come out if she is to partner Mick Channon's Knock House, and former winner Pineau De Re looks as though he will miss out, along with course regulars Alvarado and Highland Lodge.
The going at Aintree remains largely good to soft, but there is a mixed forecast over the next few days, so conditions could ease.
That would likely be music to Stuart Crawford's ears, as the Antrim-based handler has an eye on the Scottish Grand National for mud-lover Fine Rightly. Crawford's classy eight-year-old has won five of its last eight starts and was third in Leopardstown's Irish Gold Cup. A facile winner of the Grade Three Imperial Call Chase at Cork last month, Fine Rightly currently has just 10st 11lb in the prestigious Ayr feature on Saturday week.
"The owner (Patricia Duffin) would be more than happy to put him away, but if the rain keeps falling, he could go to Ayr," said the Larne man of Fine Rightly.
"He has come out of his last race at Cork very well."
Fine Rightly is a 25/1 shot for the valuable handicap, with the ante-post betting headed by Elliott's Kim Muir Chase winner Cause Of Causes at 12/1, which needs nine to come out to get a run on Saturday.
Altesse takes feature
Gutsy Altesse got up in the last few yards to claim Listed spoils in the EBF Noblesse Stakes at Leopardstown.
Jim Bolger’s mare had been placed in all her six previous starts since making a successful debut, and got her back in front where it mattered.
Outsider Island Remede – running for the first time since moving from Ed Dunlop’s stable to Henry de Bromhead – set the pace, with Ballybacka Queen keeping her company.
The latter, trained by Pat Fahy, led a furlong out, but Altesse was in close attendance and the 11/4 second favourite was delivered with precision by Kevin Manning to score by half a length. Island Remede was four lengths back in third, with favourite Zannda a disappointing fourth.
Aidan O’Brien had a profitable afternoon with a treble, headed by the victory of Somehow (15/8) in the fillies maiden. The Ballydoyle youngster entered the Classic equation with a length-and-three-quarters defeat of Shamreen under Seamie Heffernan.
O’Brien said: “She had a lovely run first time, has been working nicely and has a beautiful pedigree.We will step her up now into an Oaks Trial.”
O’Brien’s son Donnacha rode his other two winners – Claudio Monteverdi (4/5) in the opening one-mile maiden and Ineffable (7/2) in the ten-furlong handicap.