16.50 Aintree: Alaivan primed for handicap assault

Leading Irish owner JP McManus loves to plunder big handicap hurdles and looks to have two leading contenders in this 2m 4f contest in the shape of Alaivan and Stonebrook.

Slight preference is for the former, who is very well-treated on the pick of his form and has hinted that he could be ready to bag a decent prize in his last two runs.

The gelding was a smart hurdler at his best when trained in Ireland by Edward O’Grady, finishing third to Soldatino in the 2010 running of the Triumph Hurdle.

He also finished an excellent 2 1/2 length sixth of 26 behind Final Approach in the 2011 County off a rating 144 and now races off a 12lb lower mark of 132.

That gives him a massive chance at the weights, and he has shaped as if coming back to his best in recent outings.

Now in the care of Jonjo O’Neill, the eight-year-old stayed on in eye-catching fashion to finish sixth of 20 to Splash Of Ginge in the Betfair Hurdle, leaving the impression that he had running left in him, and was then far from disgraced when ninth of 28 to Lac Fontana in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

He gives the impression that he is well worth at today’s 2m 4f trip, and is definitely weighted to go close on the pick of his form.
Stonebrook is trained by Donald McCain, and has won his last two starts over hurdles in the style of an exciting prospect.

The six-year-old didn’t come off the bridle when winning last time out at Newcastle by 2 1/4 lengths, and could be well-treated off an opening handicap mark of 131 given that he finished third to Faugheen on his debut in a bumper when trained in Ireland and remains totally unexposed and open to bags more improvement.