Politologue among Marsh octet

Politologue is set to face seven rivals in the Marsh Chase at Aintree on Friday.

Paul Nicholls’ grey was forced to miss the defence of his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at last month’s Cheltenham Festival after he was found to have a trickle of blood in his nostril.

The incident proved to be nothing serious, however, and the 10-year-old will aim for a second win in Friday’s feature, which is registered as the Melling Chase, having claimed victory in 2018 and finished second to Min when the race was last run two years ago.

Nicholls also runs the classy Master Tommytucker and Duc des Genievres, a previous winner of the Arkle.

Jerry Scott’s Dashel Drasher, a late absentee from the Ryanair Chase on account of the ground, will aim to add to his Grade One tally having won the Ascot Chase last time out.

Nuts Well finally returns to action for Ann and Ian Hamilton, having missed several engagements since his victory over the same course and distance in the Old Roan Chase in October.

Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir d’Oudairies, who was a non-runner at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, and Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook represent the all-conquering Irish team.

Itchy Feet for Olly Murphy completes the field.

The Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle has 10 runners including County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter.

Nicky Henderson’s highly-regarded Dusart, not sighted since beating the high-class Soaring Glory on his hurdles debut in November, is bound to be popular with punters.

Kim Bailey’s Ajero, who is on a five-timer, and Nicholls’ Houx Gris, who ran so well for a long way in the Boodles at Cheltenham, are also engaged.

In the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Henderson’s Chantry House gets the chance to build on his victory in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Colin Tizzard fields strong opposition in the shape of The Big Breakaway and Fiddlerontheroof, who both ran well behind the exciting Monkfish at the Festival.

Shan Blue steps back up to three miles after being ridden aggressively in the Marsh at Cheltenham, with Silver Hallmark, Sporting John, Espoir De Romay and Empire Steel also running.

The Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle sees Nicholls’ Bravemansgame step up to three miles following his eclipse by Bob Olinger in the Ballymore at Cheltenham.

He is among a field of 15 which includes Emmet Mullins’ Cape Gentleman, Tizzard’s Oscar Elite and Henderson’s Gallyhill.

A field of 28 will line up in the Randox Topham Handicap Chase over the National fences, with Ibleo heading the weights for Venetia Williams.

Two For Gold, Caribean Boy and Willie Mullins’ Livelovelaugh, ridden by Patrick Mullins, are among a competitive field.

Cloth Cap headlines Grand National confirmations

Ante-post favourite Cloth Cap is among 68 confirmations for Saturday’s Randox Grand National at Aintree.

Following several withdrawals at the five-day stage, Evan Williams’ Welsh National hero Secret Reprieve is 43rd on the list, on the same weight as Some Neck who is 42nd. The maximum field size is 40, with four reserves eligible if there any defectors from the declared runners before 1pm on Friday.

There were never any concerns of not making the cut for Jonjo O’Neill’s Cloth Cap, impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy and Kelso’s Premier Chase.

He will be ridden by Tom Scudamore, who told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “It looks like he’s the ideal horse and it’s the old cliche that I wouldn’t swap him for anything. If I was riding something else Cloth Cap would be the one I’d want to ride.

Tom Scudamore is relishing his Grand National chance
Tom Scudamore is relishing his Grand National chance (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He stayed four miles plus in the Scottish National, he’s put up some great performances this year and he’s a stone well-in. That all points to him having a great chance, but he’s got to go and actually do it – we’ve seen it time and time again before, you can talk as much as you like, but you’ve got to go and do it.

“It’s nice to talk about it, it’s a lovely position to be in, but we’ve got to go and do it.”

While the race has seen many modifications to the famous fences in recent years, Scudamore feels if anything it takes even more winning than in the past.

“The National has always been fantastic to ride in and since the modifications it is still a test, you mustn’t underestimate the fences,” he said.

Cloth Cap has been all the rage for the National
Cloth Cap has been all the rage for the National (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The relentlessness of the race has changed, it used to be a mad dash to Becher’s Brook but once you made your way to the Canal Turn and headed towards The Chair (you could get a breather) – it does seem more relentless now.

“That can put more of an emphasis on stamina, it’s a long time since they said it but they used to say you needed a good two-and-a-half-miler for the National. I don’t think that’s the case now.

“I’ve had some fantastic rides in it, my best is sixth on Vieux Lion Rouge. I tend to be in contention across Melling Road but not quite get home, the likes of Soll, Vieux Lion Rouge, The Package, Blowing Wind were great rides but didn’t manage to make it all the way.”

Any Second Now is well fancied for Ted Walsh
Any Second Now is well fancied for Ted Walsh (Paul Harding/PA)

There is a strong Irish contingent with the likes of Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now, Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Times, the expected mount of Rachael Blackmore, and Willie Mullins’ Burrows Saint.

Bristol De Mai is set to carry top-weight for Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is chasing a third win in the race with Yala Enki set to be the ride of Bryony Frost.

Kimberlite Candy, Takingrisks, Potters Corner, Lord Du Mesnil and Discorama were all left in.

Among those taken out were Beware The Bear, Pym, The Jam Man, Class Conti and those that had already been scratched, like Santini and Achille.

Scott exploring Aintree possibility for Dashel Drasher

Jeremy Scott is looking to run Dashel Drasher at Aintree, in either the Melling Chase or the Betway Bowl, but only if the ground is suitable.

Should conditions be too fast then the Somerset handler would put the Betfair Ascot Chase winner away until next season.

Dashel Drasher was a late withdrawal from the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham because the ground had dried out too much.

The eight-year-old has been a revelation this campaign winning his last three starts, culminating in Grade One company in February.

“I think he’ll have an entry at Aintree, but again if the weather doesn’t look right and the ground isn’t right he wouldn’t run. But he’s very well. He’s all ready to go,” said Scott.

“There’s a race there over two and a half miles and also three-miles-one-furlong. We’ll look at both and see what the entries are like.

“Whether the shorter race will be too sharp and the longer one too far, I don’t know.

“Winning over two-five at Ascot you’d say a shade under two and a half miles round Aintree might just be too sharp for him.

“We’d certainly look at the entries on the day and make a call.”

He added: “I wouldn’t run him unless the ground was right. They do a great job at Aintree, but it would definitely have to be on the soft side and not on the quick side.

“I wouldn’t be worried if we did put him away. There are plenty of nice races next year.”