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2018 JLT Melling Chase tips - Mullins' 6/4 chance can win battle of Cheltenham Festival champions

Min can get back to winning ways in Friday's Melling Chase.

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the Melling Chase, the feature race of Friday's racecard on day two of the Aintree Grand National Festival.


The Grade One Melling Chase is the feature race of Friday’s second day of the 2018 Aintree Grand National Festival, and the top-class contest gets underway at 3.25pm as the fourth race of the afternoon.

Shown live on ITV Racing, the 2m 4f contest boasts a first prize in excess of £140,000, and despite the small turnout the race promises to be another cracking renewal of this top contest which has seen the likes of Fox Norton, Don Cossack, Sprinter Sacre and Master Minded all recent victors on an illustrious roll-call of winners.

The race brings together Cheltenham Festival form, with Ryanair Chase and Champion Chase participants in the frame to compete for Grade One success.

The Ryanair Chase form is represented by Balko Des Flos (9/4, Paddy Power) who won that contest at the Cheltenham Festival, taking advantage of a below-par effort by Un De Sceaux to win readily.

Henry de Bromhead’s Balko gelding was stepping back in trip having chased home Road To Respect in the Christmas Chase previously; the Galway Plate winner had also made the frame in a pair of Grade Two contests prior to his Festival success.

The form of that Ryanair Chase win has to be treated with some caution given Cue Card ran well below form, and Un De Sceaux arguably isn’t the force of old now. Indeed Willie Mullins’ charge looked a fortunate winner at Fairyhouse earlier in the month where he looked likely to finish runner-up behind Doctor Phoenix when that one crashed out two fences from home to leave him clear.

Balko Des Flos can go close in Friday's JLT Melling Chase.


He isn’t easily dismissed, with a repeat effort likely to put him firmly in the mix; while Cloudy Dream (16/1, Unibet) finished a distant third in the Cheltenhan race and Ruth Jefferson’s charge arguably isn’t quite up to the level needed to win this.

The Cloudings gelding runs consistently well, but he often finds one or two too good and his usually sound jumping let him down slightly at Cheltenham last time. 

He had previously racked up a sequence of silver medal finishes, including behind subsequent Gold Cup winner Native River at Newbury. He has made the frame in two of three starts here, and he ought to give another good account of himself although he looks vulnerable as a win proposition.

Despite being beaten behind Altior in the Champion Chase, MIN (6/4, Boylesport) produced a performance in that race that would have won most other years, and Willie Mullins’ charge can quickly bounce back to winning form.

His disqualification at Leopardstown aside, where he was first past the post but subsequently demoted to second behind Simply Ned, the Walk In The Park gelding has only been beaten by Nicky Henderson’s top-class performer, and he quickly righted his Leopardstown wrong by demolishing Simply Ned to win the Dublin Chase easily.

Willie Mullins' Min can win the JLT Melling Chase.


He had travelled easily into the race at Cheltenham, and he looked a likely winner turning in before Altior found another gear up the straight; with 16 lengths back to fourth-placed Politologue (10/1, BetVictor) he can confirm the form with the return to this trip unlikely to be an issue.

Indeed, he was impressive when winning his sole start over this distance at Gowran Park, and there ought to be more to come from him.

Paul Nicholls’ Politologue is a classy performer in his own right, but he has a bit to find with the Mullins horse, although the return to a longer trip will help. 

A first-time tongue-tie is also deployed, but he could find Min too strong again even with the longer trip likely to prove more to his liking. 

The Poliglote gelding would likely have won the Maghull Chase here twelve months ago before falling at the last, and while he has shown some high-class form this term, including winning the Tingle Creek Chase, this demands more from the Ditcheat runner.

Le Prezien (20/1, Paddy Power) returned to winning form when posting an impressive success in the Grand Annual Chase, but the second of Paul Nicholls’ runners is likely to find this too hot back in Graded company.

The Blue Bresil gelding isn’t always the most fluent of jumpers, and he had struggled in competitive Cheltenham handicaps previous to posting that win. This will demand another significant step forward if he is to win, and he will probably need a couple of these to falter if he is to collect the top prize.

Can Le Prezien follow up his Cheltenham Festival win with success at Aintree?


Completing the field,  Sizing Granite (40/1, Paddy Power) bounced back to winning form after a pair of non-completions to score readily at Newbury three weeks ago.

Colin Tizzard’s charge showed improved form for a wind operation, readily accounting for Early Du Lemo in that outing over hurdles; but this demands much more from the son of Milan who won a valuable Punchestown handicap last term.

Back over fences today, he has plenty to find on form, and he’ll need to step up again markedly to challenge the pick of these rivals from level weights.

VERDICT


Balko Des Flos was an authoritative winner of the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham, Festival, but the form of that success isn’t quite as strong as the form shown in defeat by MIN (6/4, Boylesport) when Willie Mullins’ charge found only Altior too strong in the Champion Chase.

The Walk In The Park gelding had won all three previous starts over fences prior to losing out on the Paddys Reward Club Chase in the stewards’ room during the Leopardstown Christmas Festival where he was first past the post but subsequently demoted behind Simply Ned. However, he demolished the same rival next time, and he travelled like the winner for a long way at Cheltenham before Altior found an extra gear to speed away from the Mullins runner up the run-in.

His only previous try at this trip saw him rout Flaxen Flare by almost forty lengths, and there ought to be more to come from him back over this longer trip. Paul Nicholls’ Politologue has 16 lengths to find with the Closutton runner, and so this could develop into a match between the two Irish raiders with preference for Willie Mullins’ charge who could prove hard to beat.

2018 JLT MELLING CHASE SELECTION - MIN (6/4, Boylesport)

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2018 JLT Melling Chase tips - Mullins' 6/4 chance can win battle of Cheltenham Festival champions

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the Melling Chase, the feature race of Friday's racecard on day two of the Aintree Grand National Festival.

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