With the Grand National just a few short days away, attention is turned towards Aintree as spectators are expected in their masses for the first time since 2019, when Tiger Roll made it consecutive wins in front of a sell-out crowd. Since then, the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the 2020 race and forced last year’s proceedings behind closed doors, so you can expect this year’s event to have a lot to live up to.
As always, attention is primarily focused on Saturday’s showpiece event. Will Rachael Blackmore make it back-to-back wins? As hard as it is to tell on the Grand National tips, the focus has somewhat overshadowed some of the other races, including Friday’s Grade One Marsh Steeple Chase. Known more commonly as ‘The Melling’ named after the village situated on the outskirts of Liverpool near Aintree, the race is one of the newer on the Grand National Festival calendar and is one of the highlights of Ladies Day.
Often including horses which ran in the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, the likes of Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness will feature in what looks like an exciting race. With it being a close one to call, we thought we’d take a look at some of the recent winners of the Melling Chase in previous years.
2021- Fakir D’oudairies
Joseph O’Brien’s decision to leave Fakir D’oudairies out of Cheltenham seemed strange at the time, but makes more sense now as he looks to regain the Melling he won last year behind closed doors. The six-year-old won by 11 lengths to see off competition from Nuts Well and Itchy Feet to make up for his second-place finish in the Ryanair Chase the previous month.
Mark Walsh did a good job as jockey and both he and the horse earnt praise from O’Brien after. “I thought he jumped very well today,” he said. “He made a little mistake early on but he soon got into a nice rhythm and Mark gave him a fantastic ride.”
2019 – Min
While Willie Mullins is better known for his success in the Cheltenham Festival and on Irish soil than in Merseyside, he did capture the Melling Chase in 2019 with Min. Having come second the year before, Min looked like a horse possessed and with Ruby Walsh aboard, success seemed all but inevitable. Winning by a good 20 lengths, it was a dominant display that set the gelding up to win the Ryanair Chase the next year back at Prestbury Park.
2018 – Politologue
It was closely contested, it went down to the final neck, but aul Nicholls-trained Politologue earnt the bragging rights in the 2018 Melling after a thrilling rematch with Min after their Champion Chase encounter a few weeks prior. This one was full of entertainment, with third-place Sizing Granite struggling to get close to the two favourites, with Politologue requiring a slice of luck, and an excellent performance from Sam Twiston-Davies to reign supreme.
The jockey was overjoyed at the end of the race, saying: “We put the hood back on Politologue today which really helped. His best form has come on flat tracks, but he did relax today which allows him to be capable of big performances like this today.
“He jumped fantastic and got in a great rhythm. He has done all the hard work – I just sat here and pushed at the end. It’s amazing to come here and get on the board.”