King can rule the roost in Melling
ON a busy day for Irish-trained horses at Aintree, there is none more intriguing than Edward O'Grady's Tranquil Sea in the John Smith's Melling Chase.
Tom Mullins also saddles Made In Taipan in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One, but it is the Andrew McNamara-ridden nine-year-old that is of particular interest. Successful in his only two starts this term, Tranquil Sea recorded a first Grade One triumph in December's rearranged John Durkan Chase at Fairyhouse last time out.
In light of that, he has the class to get involved at an each-way price here. However, the fact that he hasn't run since then is not ideal and Kalahari King is favoured for the win.
Albertas Run landed this race in 2010 on the back of his initial Ryanair Chase triumph, so a bold bid to record the same double is on the cards now. However, the prospect of slow ground is a concern, and Kalahari King, which is also very effective over this distance, didn't enjoy a clear run when second to Albertas Run at Cheltenham.
A faller here 12 months ago, he was a highly impressive winner on his only other outing at Aintree the previous year. With everything in his favour, then, Ferdy Murphy's 10-year-old might finally record a debut success at this level.
There are a further 19 Irish runners across the remaining six races on a highly competitive programme at the Liverpool venue.
In the Mildmay Novices' Chase, Quito De La Roque will attempt to enhance his growing reputation for Colm Murphy.
The three-mile Grade Two hasn't come this way since Like-A-Butterfly scored for Christy Roche six years ago, and this may not be the strongest renewal. Of the eight runners, Quito De La Roque has shown the most consistent form over fences.
In four starts, his only defeat came when beaten less than a length by subsequent RSA Chase hero Bostons Angel in a Grade One at Leopardstown after Christmas.
He has since won twice at this level in taking fashion, so it will be disappointing if the son of Saint Des Saints doesn't confirm his immense promise.
The Topham Chase is another prize that hasn't graced these shores since 2005, but a strong case can be made for many of our seven representatives in today's 30-runner contest over the National fences. Scotsirish and Dev are two at either end of the weight scale with form over the course that could show up well again.
Ballyholland competed in last year's National to lesser effect and he may be worth taking a chance on at a big price now over a two-mile-five-furlong trip that will suit him better.
Colin McBratney's 10-year-old appeared to handle the fences perfectly well before tiring late on in the National, while there was plenty to like about the former Galway Plate winner's reappearance effort over flights at Naas last month.
In the opening novice hurdle, the Noel Meade-trained Perfect Smile has place claims, but slight preference is for A Media Luz. Barry Geraghty's mount wasn't suited by Cheltenham's undulations last time, and will be happier on a more even track now.
2.00 A Media Luz. 2.30 Quito De La Roque (nap). 3.05 Kalahari King. 3.40 Ballyholland.
4.15 Sparky May. 4.50 Ringaroses. 5.25 Baby Shine.