JLT Melling Chase Betting Tips & Predictions – Aintree, Friday 5th April 2019

The Grade 1 Melling Chase is the biggest race on the card of the second day of the Grand National Festival. Run over a distance of two miles and four furlongs and with 16 fences to clear, this is a test of skill and speed for the runners. With such greats as Sprinter Sacre and Moscow Flyer amongst the previous winners, and with a hefty prize fund of a quarter of a million pounds this year, it certainly has plenty of prestige.

The field for the 2019 renewal is small, with just seven horses going to post, but they are of a decent calibre. If the odds are to be believed then this looks set to be a three way battle between last year’s winner and runner up, Politologue and Min, and the Ruth Jefferson representative, Waiting Patiently.

Top Tips

Waiting Patiently to win @ 5/2

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

This race is relatively new, having first been run in 1991, but has already witnessed five dual winners. Bidding to join the likes of Moscow Flyer, Native Upmanship and Viking Flagship in the record books this year is the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Good To Soft 2m4f Grade 1 £250,000 7 Runners 1/4 1-2

Recent Winners

Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls are the trainers to have saddled the most winners to date with three apiece. Barry Geraghty leads the way in the saddle with four wins, two on Moscow Flyer and then when teaming up with Henderson in 2012 and 2013.

Nicholls looks set to be responsible for this year’s favourite in Politologue, whilst Henderson sends the likeable Top Notch in pursuit of the prize. Geraghty meanwhile gets the leg up on Harry Fry’s talented but unpredictable Hell’s Kitchen.

YearWinnerSPTrainerJockey
2018 Politologue 11/1 Paul Nicholls Sam Twiston-Davies
2017 Fox Norton 4/1 Colin Tizzard Robbie Power
2016 God’s Own 10/1 Tom George Paddy Brennan
2015 Don Cossack 3/1 Gordon Elliott Tony McCoy
2014 Boston Bob 5/1 Willie Mullins Paul Townend

Analysis: Wait A Great Bet

This does look to be between the big three in the market, with Hell’s Kitchen and Top Notch yet to show anything like their best form at this track, Gods Own seemingly on the downgrade and Woodland Opera out of his depth.

Nicholls To Log Another Victory?

Having drawn level with Nicky Henderson as the top trainer in the race 12 months ago, another win for Paul Nicholls this year will put the Champion Trainer elect out in front all on his own. He looks to have a fine chance of doing it too, as it is the defending champion Politologue who flies the flag for the Nicholls yard in this year’s edition. He only just came out on top in a real thriller here 12 months ago, but heads into the race in at least as good form this time around.

Altior likely wasn’t quite at his best in the Champion Chase last time out, but it was still a mighty run from Politologue to get within two lengths of just about the best in the business at the line. This one does seem to like getting his toe into the ground, and whilst the current good to soft ought to be fine, any rain in the lead up to the race wouldn’t go amiss.

Min It To Win It

It takes two runners to create a pulsating finish, and the horse to come out on just on the wrong side of a driving climax to this race twelve months ago was the Willie Mullins runner, Min. Sent off the hot favourite that day, he cruised into contention but was just outbattled by Politologue, going down by just a neck at the line. Three times a winner at the highest level, this Rich Ricci owned runner is thoroughly proven in the Grade and under these conditions, and had looked in great order when winning his first two starts of the current campaign.

All of which makes his effort in the Champion Chase last time out all the more puzzling. He simply didn’t jump with any kind of zest that day, never getting into the race at all and being beaten over 11 lengths in the end. Undoubtedly talented enough to win, will he bounce back here?

Patiently To Pounce?

The best horse in the race according to the official handicapper is neither Min nor Politologue. That honour belongs to the Ruth Jefferson-trained, Waiting Patiently. A perfect six from six over fences heading into the current campaign, big things were expected this time around, but nothing has quite gone to plan as yet.

Travelling nicely, only to unluckily unseat his rider in the King George, he was then sent off favourite for his next start in the Betfair Ascot Chase, only to be soundly thrashed by an awe-inspiring Cyrname. He did win that Grade 1 event in 2018 though, so is up to this grade when on song. First time cheekpieces will be enlisted here in an effort to relight the fire.

Final Verdict: Waiting Patiently To Win

Waiting Patiently is the one for us here. Still only eight years old, he looked to have the potential to go right to the top of the tree last season, and we aren’t prepared to right him off on the back of one subpar run, which came on ground likely quicker than ideal. He was nowhere near his best in that Ascot Chase contest, but still had Politologue in behind, and the report of showers and sleet in the area will be music to the ears of connections.

One final factor in his favour is that having skipped Cheltenham, he ought to arrive at the track fresher than his main market rivals.

About the Melling Chase: A Chasing Contest for Champions

Aintree Racecourse Viewed from the Melling Road
Rept0n1x, Wikimedia Commons (Image Cropped)

When you ask most people about the Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse only one race will immediately come to mind. The public’s imagination is no doubt captured by the marathon trip and monumental effort required to win the Grand National but the three days that it headlines contain all manner of different National Hunt races.

The Melling Chase is an excellent case in point. This Grade 1 is run over a distance of 2 miles 4 furlongs, which is over 1½ miles shorter than the Grand National. Naturally, horses with a very different set of skills compete in the two races but the leading contenders of the Melling Chase are often revered every bit as much as those who compete in the Grand National.

An Instant Hit

The Leeds Liverpool Canal from the Melling Road with Aintree Racecourse in the Background

Named after a village in close proximity to Aintree, the Melling Chase was first run in 1991. It was introduced to the Grand National Festival as a Grade 1 and immediately lived up to the billing as Blazing Walker won a classy seven-runner affair.

Things soon got even better as leading trainers began targeting their leading shorter distance chasers at the Melling Chase. Some of the best horses of the last 20 years or so have claimed this race including Moscow Flyer, Voy Por Ustedes and Sprinter Sacre.

Some of those stars were winning the Melling Chase relatively late on in their careers but as time’s gone by it has become more of a race for younger chasers. Moscow Flyer (one of five two time winners of the Melling Chase) shares the record as the oldest winner at 11. Since that win in 2005 no horse has won the Melling Chase aged over nine.

Graph Showing the Age of Melling Chase Winners

As you would expect with so many big name horses claiming this race, the Melling Chase has been won by several of the most accomplished trainers and jockeys in the game too. Nicky Henderson became the first trainer to secure a hat-trick of wins whilst the most successful jockey is Barry Geraghty who racked up his fourth win aboard the much-loved Sprinter Sacre in 2013.

Middle Distance Provides Many Routes in and Out

The 2m4f distance of the Melling Chase means that it is neither a race for specialist minimum distance chasers nor one for the out and out stayers. That provides its own challenges both for horses and trainers but it does mean that the potential pool of competitors is a large one.

For that reason the leading contenders from many different races eventually find their way to the Melling. The most common route from the Cheltenham Festival a month or so earlier sees horses take in either the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which is run over 2m, or the Ryanair Chase over 2m5f.

Chart Showing the Winners of the Melling Chase's Preceding Run at Cheltenham

Either route necessitates a change in tactics but that’s par for the course for this sort of competition. You’ll find that the runners in any year’s Melling Chase have competed from anywhere between 2m to 3m+ over the course of that season which undoubtedly makes things a little tricky for punters.

There are some important trends to consider though. The Mildmay Course at Aintree is a pretty speedy track. Therefore, those who come in having competed over shorter trips must be able to prove their stamina whilst those who have been seen in staying races must show a turn of pace which may not have been required of them for a while.

Top class jumping ability is the other thing to consider. There are 16 fences to be jumped in the Melling Chase. Whether an individual horse is taking them quicker than they are used to or is more tired than normal when approaching the final few flights, being able to rely on rock solid technique is a real boost. So, who do you fancy this year?!

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