Paul Ferguson has four selections from Aintree for us on Friday; Saphir Du Rheu in the 2.50, Champagne Fever in the 3.25, Monetaire at 4.05 and Minella Rocco in the 4.40.
Having been forced to miss the Queen Mother Champion Chase after being bitten by a stable-mate in his box at Cheltenham Champagne Fever (3:25) arrives at Aintree fresh and can land a really strong renewal of the Melling Chase.
Willie Mullins’ dual Cheltenham Festival winner should be right at home over 2m4f around the Mildmay course and the grey jumped as well as I have seen him jump when winning at Gowran Park in February.
A non-stayer when fourth in the King George, he probably ran too quickly when falling when upsides Don Cossack at Thurles in January and he can land a first Grade 1 over fences, to go with his two Grade 1 hurdle and two Grade 1 bumper successes.
Another grey fancied to strike on ‘Ladies Day’ is Saphir Du Rheu (2:50) who returns to fences in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, having finished second in the World Hurdle last month.
One from three over fences earlier in the season, he hit the deck on the other two occasions when a short price favourite to beat subsequent Gold Cup winner, Coneygree.
Paul Nicholls believes his six-year-old will jump better on this sounder surface and a clear round should suffice in what looks a slightly below-par Grade 1.
Another festival second Monetaire (4:05) is fancied to go one better in the Topham Chase, for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore.
The nine-year-old has run three times for Pipe since arriving from France, firstly finishing third at Cheltenham after a shuddering mistake early on, before easily scoring at Newbury in November. Saved for the festival, he was left at the standing start, yet still ran on to finish second in the Festival Plate and he deserves a change of luck.
The other one I like in the Topham is Rajdhani Express who looks to have the scope to really take to these fences. Nicky Henderson has, of course, saddled the past two winners of this race, too.
Later on the card Minella Rocco (4:40) is fancied to take the step up in class in his stride and maintain his unbeaten record in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.
Jonjo O’Neill’s expensive purchase created a good impression when beating the much-vaunted West Wizard on debut at Kempton, before sauntering home from a fair sort at Newbury during February.
The son of Shirocco looks a potentially high-class chasing prospect and, while his form doesn’t quite amount to as much as some of these, he remains open to any amount of improvement.
Vyta Du Roc is the form pick and is greatly respected, but he has had a long season, while Ordo Ab Chao is another who will appreciate the step up to 3m. This looks a strong novice hurdle.
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2014-15
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