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Chicago has right rhythm for Elliott

As things are, I don't have a ride in this afternoon's John Smith's Aintree Grand National. I am on standby to fill in for Paul Carberry on Gordon Elliott's Chicago Grey in the event that he doesn't recover sufficiently after bruising some ribs in a fall during the week, but he has been riding out the last couple of mornings, so I'd expect him to be okay.

Tarquinius, Gordon's other runner, was my ride until he was purchased by new owners last week.

They have an association with Wilson Renwick and the deal was that he would ride him, so that was that. Such is life.

Chicago Grey would be a great spin. When I won on him at Navan last time, he beat Foildubh, which then went and franked the form at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.

Having won Listed hurdles and Graded chases, he has class, and he gets in off just 10st 7lb. Paul also rode him in the race last year, and said he winged the first five fences before getting brought down.

The key to Chicago Grey today will be to get into a rhythm on the first circuit.

If he finds his feet and is still there for the second lap, he is the sort of horse that could have a big say. He won the four-miler at Cheltenham two years ago, so he has bundles of stamina, but he isn't slow, either.

While he is ground-versatile, I think the going on the National course, which is on the slow side of good after being watered, will be ideal. He is my idea of the winner, so fingers crossed that things go his way.

As a Hennessy Gold Cup winner, Willie Mullins' Quel Esprit is interesting, though he has plenty weight. Mullins' On His Own is probably the one to beat. He looked to be cantering when he came down at Becher's second time round last year.

Willie has protected his mark by not running him over fences in the meantime, and he won nicely over hurdles at Navan on his reappearance there.

Seabass would be a popular winner for Katie Walsh, but 11st 6lb is a lot of weight. I think he ran to his mark when third last year, so, while he should run well again, he might not win.

AP McCoy has gone for his Ted Walsh-trained stablemate Colbert Station. I was surprised that he didn't opt for last year's runner-up Sunnyhillboy of JP McManus' contenders. Colbert Station lacks a bit of experience, while course form here counts for a lot.

Then again, I'm sure AP has his reasons for going with Colbert Station, and he was impressive on his last couple of outings. Cappa Bleu stayed on well to be fourth last year.

I'd give him an each-way chance again, and Treacle could also have a hand in the shake-up. At 12 years of age, maybe Tom Taaffe's charge is a bit old to be winning, but he stays well.

In the handicap chase before the big race, I ride Russian War for Gordon. If Battle Group is in the sort of form that he was when winning here on Thursday, he could be hard to stop, but Russian War won a Listed race here over hurdles in 2011, so he likes the track.

While he is returning from a break, he goes well fresh and might run into a place.

Solwhit should confirm Cheltenham form with Celestial Halo in the Liverpool Hurdle, and I also like Overturn in the Maghull Novices' Chase. The ground was too soft for him at Cheltenham, but his bold-jumping, front-running style could be effective on this quick track.

Irish Independent