Aintree 2015: Melling Chase preview (15:25)
Don Cossack has looked the real deal this season, and looks the one to beat in the Melling Chase at Aintree (15:25) following an excellent run last time out at the Cheltenham Festival.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, this eight-year-old won his four starts in good style, and was most impressive when beating Boston Bob by four lengths in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.
Don Cossack jumped well and only had to be driven out by jockey Bryan Cooper to win with more in hand than the winning margin suggests, and the form looks strong as the third home was last year’s Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere.
The selection then looked to have the measure of Champagne Fever when that one came to grief at the final fence in a Grade 2 contest at Thurles when strolling to a 44 length success.
Don Cossack was sent off the heavily-backed 5/2 favourite for the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase as a result of that success and, although he could only finish third to Uxizandre, ran far better than the 8 1/4 lengths he was beaten by suggests.
After getting outpaced three from home, Don Cossack got badly hampered, and lost vital ground when making a mistake two from home before rallying in tremendous style to be gaining all the way to the line.
In the circumstances it was an excellent effort given how the race panned out, and the drop back to 2m 4f in this should suit as Don Cossack has won four of his five starts over it.
The selection also now gets the services of soon-to-be crowned 20-times champion jockey AP McCoy in the saddle for the first time, and everything points to a massive run.
Champagne Fever represents the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable and looks the obvious danger to Don Cossack.
The eight-year-old is a dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival, and was a leading fancy for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the big meeting last month before being withdrawn after being bitten by a stablemate in transit.
That may well prove a blessing in disguise as it means Champagne Fever comes into the contest a fresh horse, and this track looks sure to suit his attacking front running style.
However, with Cue Card also in the field, Champagne Fever may well not get things all his own way up front, and he has something to find with Don Cossack judged on their running at Thurles.