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Aintree Festival Day 2 Predictions: Jonbon can soar in Melling Chase
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Enda McElhinney
Racing Post
Nicky Henderson's Jonbon is a dual winner at Aintree's Grand National Festival
Nicky Henderson's Jonbon is a dual winner at Aintree's Grand National Festival

Saturday's Grand National is fast approaching but we have Day 2 of the Aintree Festival to enjoy before that with Friday's seven-race card should provide plenty of quality action and there's another four Grade 1 races to look forward to.

Amongst the highlights are the Melling Chase, Top Novices' Hurdle and the Topham Chase over the National fences. There's surely something for everyone and it's set to be a cracking day.

Mildmay Novices' Chase – Aintree 1.45, April 12th

Key talking point: Ultima vs. Kim Muir

We're used to Cheltenham novice chase winners coming back to compete in this Grade 1 over 3m1f but it's two Cheltenham Festival handicap winners that are drawing the most interest here.

Inothewayurthinkin won the Kim Muir by eight-lengths off a mark of 145 last time out but Kim Bailey's Chianti Classico was just as impressive in the Ultima off 143. This race could come down to which of those handicaps provides the strongest form.

Mildmay Novices' Chase Best bet: Chianti Classico @ 7/2

The Ultima would historically be a better form race than the Kim Muir which is why Chianti Classico gets the nod. Bailey's seven-year-old has always shown plenty of potential and his latest effort surely isn't far away from Grade 1 form in novice company. 

Top Novices' Hurdle - Aintree 2.55, April 12th

Key talking point: The Supreme Novices' Hurdle's second, third and fifth return

It's satisfying that several of the principles in last month's Supreme return here and we've also got the added interest of the unbeaten mare Dysart Enos. There wasn't a great deal between Mystical Power and Firefox last time out and it's easy to see why they're dominating the market.

Top Novices' Hurdle Best bet: Mystical Power @ 2/1

Mystical Power looked like the winner at Cheltenham last time for much of the run-in but Slade Steel possessed more stamina, which ended up winning the day in testing conditions. The sharper track here at Aintree should be to his liking on that evidence and the son of Annie Power looks set to gain valuable compensation here.

Willie Mullins made a fast start at Aintree on day one of the Grand National Festival
Willie Mullins made a fast start at Aintree on day one of the Grand National Festival

Melling Chase - Aintree 3.30, April 12th

Key talking point: Jonbon finally goes up in trip 

It appears that it was stubbornness more than anything that has prevented Nicky Henderson from stepping Jonbon up in trip before now. Perhaps scarred by Altior's defeat at the hands of Cyrname a few years ago, it has been at least somewhat counter-productive. The extra half-a-mile here should be to his liking and it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Melling Chase Best bet: Jonbon @ 5/2

Jonbon is probably the best horse in this race and the step up to 2m4f should allow him to fulfil his potential. An easy winner of an Irish point over three-miles in his younger days, this horse can probably win a King George at some point. There's still a question mark over the yard's form but he should prove hard to beat if fit and well. 

Sefton Novices' Hurdle - Aintree 4.40, April 12th

Key talking points: Has Paul Townend made the wrong choice again?

Willie Mullins runs two in this race and Paul Townend has opted for Readin Tommy Wrong once again, which should raise a few eyebrows. Dancing City was third in the Albert Bartlett last time, whilst Townend's mount pulled up after running very poorly. 

Sefton Novices' Hurdle Best bet: Croke Park @ 8/1

Croke Park should be suited by the step up to an extended three miles, having looked outpaced behind Readin Tommy Wrong in the Lawlor's of Naas last time out. This horse was meant to run in the Albert Bartlett instead of eventual winner and stablemate Stellar Story. Connections must therefore rate Croke Park higher which suggests he should have every chance. 

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