16.15 Aintree: Arnaud appeals on handicap debut
A wide open renewal of the Red Rum Handicap Chase in which the unexposed Arnaud and Claret Cloak look the pair to concentrate on.
Slight preference for the former who is making his handicap debut of what looks a handy mark of of 148 and has the promising Ger Fox in the saddle taking 7lb off his back.
Trained in Ireland by Charles Byrnes, the gelding has been in rude health this season, winning his first three starts over hurdles and fences before posting a career-best effort last time out when runner-up to Valdez in a Grade 2 chase over 2m 1f at Doncaster.
The six-year-old was given an attacking ride from the front in the latter, and was clear two from home before being collared on the run-in to be beaten 3 1/4 lengths.
The winner is a really useful novice chaser who went on to run an excellent race at the Cheltenham Festival when fifth of nine in the Arkle Chase and is now officially rated 153.
That looks solid form, and makes Arnaud look on a workable mark off 148, especially now dropped back to 2m on a track which should play to his strengths.
The way he went from the front at Doncaster suggested this speedy track would suit, and he could take some pegging back if allowed to dominate.
The one most likely to give him plenty to think about is the Emma Lavelle trained Claret Cloak, who looked the likely winner of the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival until making a bad mistake two from home.
The seven-year-old rallied well to be beaten just 1 1/2 lengths into third by Savello, and it was a cracking effort on just his fourth start over fences.
The handicapper has put him up 4lb for that effort, but he remains unexposed and open to further improvement and his current mark of 146 should not be beyond him.
Of those at bigger odds, Astracad could well represent some each-way value.
Nigel Twiston-Davies eight-year-old has not been at his best so far this season but his handicap mark has fallen as a result and he has run some solid races at Aintree in the past.
He is now 4lb lower than when finishing runner-up in this contest back in 2012, and his best run this season came over 2m 4f at this track when runner-up to Conquisto in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase of fa 1lb higher mark.