Ladies Day at Aintree could potentially be hosting the highest class race, not only of the meeting, but of the season, if Cue Card, Flemenstar and Sprinter Sacre meet in the £200,000 Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase over two and a half miles.
These three are currently the best middle-distance chasers in UK and Ireland, and Sprinter Sacre has the potential to become the best ever chaser in history if continuing his imperious form.
He confirmed himself one of the best chasers of modern times with a breath-taking 19-length romp in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nicky Henderson has left the chances of running at Aintree open although he could switch and head to Punchestown if Henderson has a change of heart.
Bets for Friday at Grand National
Topham Chase : Always Waining @ 12/1 with Bet365 (£200 Free Bet) -> Watch
It would be a huge moment in the career of Sprinter Sacre if he was to run at this distance as it would open up a whole host of opportunities for the horse to run over further.
If that is the case then he could potentially be moulded into a Gold Cup or King George VI Chase horse, which is a very exciting prospect.
If he does go for the Melling Chase bookmakers make him the 1/3 favourite to continue his unbeaten record.
Trainer Colin Tizzard is looking forward to a potential clash with Sprinter Sacre and Flemenstar after confirming his stable star Cue Card is on course for the race.
Cue Card has established himself as the leading intermediate chaser this term with emphatic victories in Exeter’s sportingbet Haldon Gold Cup, the Ascot Chase and the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this month, when he slammed Grade One scorer First Lieutenant by nine lengths.
The seven-year-old could renew his rivalry with Sprinter Sacre. The pair met in last season’s Racing Post Arkle Chase over two miles at Cheltenham with Sprinter Sacre running out a seven-length winner, but there is an argument to think that Cue Card may reduce that deficit over further.
Bookmakers think that Sprinter Sacre will stay true to that form and have Cue Card at 6/1, with Paddy Power keen to take on the Tizzard runner.
Irish raider Flemenstar, who can be backed at 9/2, adds further spice to the contest after missing the Cheltenham Festival with a lung infection.
Peter Casey’s star is a three-time Grade One winner over fences and brushed aside subsequent Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in December.
He looks ready made to give Sprinter Sacre a real battle up front in this race as his style of racing is just as exuberant as the Henderson runner. If all three turn up, it could be a spectacular prospect.
The Melling Chase is part of a bumper seven-race card on the Friday, which also includes the Topham Chase over the Grand National course.
This will give an idea of how the course is running for the big one on Saturday and punters will be watching very closely.
This is always a very competitive handicap chase but it has been turned into a one horse race lately by Always Waning, who loves the National fences and has won this race for the last two years.
He is the 12/1 favourite with Bet365 to make it an amazing hat-trick.
Bookies will be keen to take on the favourite though and the one to be on this year could be Soll, who can be backed at 14/1.
The former Irish raider was deemed good enough to run in a Grand National a couple of years ago but has fallen below that standard. However, he looked in rude health at Sandown’s Imperial Cup meeting and ran out a very impressive winner.