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Veteran Albertas Run can defy advancing years

Buoyed by Follow The Plan's stunning 50/1 triumph yesterday, hopes will be high that further Irish success can be salvaged from a 12-strong raiding party at Aintree today.

In the featured John Smith's Melling Chase, Forpadydeplasterer bids to bring to an end a losing run that now stretches to three years.

Second to Albertas Run in the Grade One two years ago, Tom Cooper's stable star will certainly be suited by two and a half miles on good ground, and he was far from disgraced when sixth in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

However, Albertas Run might be able to defy his advancing years to score again today.

It will be fascinating to see how Finian's Rainbow, conqueror of Sizing Europe in such controversial circumstances at Prestbury Park last month, fares on his first outing as champion, but Albertas Run goes especially well under AP McCoy at the Liverpool venue.

Second to Master Minded here in 2011, Jonjo O'Neill's 11-year-old turned in a thumping effort to be third in the Ryanair on his first start since he won the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October. If he can reproduce that level of performance now, odds of 3/1 look generous.

In the Topham over the Grand National fences, Willie Mullins' Apt Approach heads four Irish challengers, with Gonebeyondrecall (Noel Glynn), Arklow Ger (Paul Nolan) and Paradis De Thaix (Jessica Harrington) completing the delegation.

Having conquered Follow The Plan at Thurles before finishing third to Rubi Light at Gowran Park, there is an obvious case to be made for Apt Approach and Paul Townend.

That said, with the ground as good as it is, it maybe isn't surprising that Ruby Walsh has preferred Paul Nicholls' Aintree regular Frankie Figg. Sixth in the race last year, Frankie Figg can't be discounted, but Gonebeyondrecall finished just in front of him on that occasion.

Off identical terms, Davy Condon's mount could represent a touch of value at up to 14/1.

The nine-year-old hasn't run since failing to cope with testing conditions in the Kerry National in September, but he also came here after a break last year, so that may be by design.

Given how poorly our novice hurdlers have fared in England this term, it's difficult to imagine Ipsos Du Berlais or Catcherinscratcher being good enough in the Grand Sefton Novices' Hurdle. At his best, Noel Meade's smart Gigginstown Stud-owned Ipsos Du Berlais would surely play a part in the Grade One.

Still, he never went a yard in the three-miler at Cheltenham, so it's difficult to envisage him obliging. Having missed the Festival, Fingal Bay, a Grade One winner at Newbury in December, may be the one to keep on side for an in-form Philip Hobbs-Richard Johnson axis.

The final three Irish-based runners on the card are Missunited, Hidden Lite and Dr Machini in the mares' bumper. Eddie Hales' booking of Ruby Walsh for Hidden Lite is significant, but, like Willie Mullins' Dr Machini, that one made all the running the day it won.

In a helter-skelter contest like this, those sort of tactics can be detrimental, so Missunited has more appeal.

Mick Winters' mare was well beaten when last seen in a good race at Navan in December, but she comes here a fresh horse and conditions should suit.

Selections

2.0 Darlan; 2.30 Champion Court; 3.05 Albertas Run; 3.40 Gonebeyondrecall; 4.15 Fingal Bay; 4.50 It's A Gimme; 5.25 Missunited

Irish Independent