Friday 15 December 2017

Merigo to profit from pere's burden

Notre Pere heads a three-strong Irish contingent in the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree tomorrow.

On the back of an encouraging run over an inadequate trip at Thurles, Jim Dreaper's nine-year-old is a fascinating prospect here, with soft ground and three and a quarter miles sure to play to his strengths.

Nonetheless, Notre Pere must concede lumps of weight to his 16 opponents and it may be that a place will be the best he can hope for.

Preferred is last season's Scottish National winner Merigo, which gets in off 10st 12lb thanks to Notre Pere's presence at the top of the card.

While that famous Ayr triumph came on good ground, all of Merigo's best previous form, including an Eider Chase success, was on testing going, so tomorrow's conditions will not be a problem.

If anything, the 26-furlong trip might still be on the short side for Timmy Murphy's mount, but it's significant that he has twice finished second over shorter in hurdle races in recent times.

While Merigo may have been well-beaten on his reappearance over timber at Kelso, that outing simply served to blow the cobwebs away, and he has a great deal going for him now with just a 10lb penalty for his National exploits.

In the handicap chase that follows, Fine Parchment looks primed to add to an impressive triumph at Uttoxeter last Saturday.

Having undergone a wind operation in the summer, Charlie Mann's seven-year-old improved for his seasonal reappearance to gallop his rivals into submission a week ago.

While this is a quick turnaround for Fine Parchment, it's reasonable to assume that he didn't overexert himself in winning, and he has only eight pounds extra to deal with here.

Granted, this is a better race, but you'd be hard pushed to identify a more progressive or in-form opponent than the selection in tomorrow's seven-runner event.

The northern-based Categorical did catch the eye when third at Haydock last time. Nonetheless, with 23 chasing starts to his name compared to Fine Parchment's 11, that one looks a more exposed type.

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