Pic D'Orhy primed for Melling defence

Last year's winner in great form ahead of his Aintree defence.

PIC D'ORHY winning the Marsh Chase (Melling Chase) at Aintree in Liverpool, England.
PIC D'ORHY winning the Marsh Chase (Melling Chase) at Aintree in Liverpool, England. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Paul Nicholls will be hoping Pic D'Orhy can make it back-to-back victories in the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday.

The progressive Johnny de la Hey-owned chaser landed the prize twelve months ago and warmed up for his defence in the perfect style when coming home in isolation in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase in February.

Nicholls, who has made it no secret that this has been his season-long target, said on his Betfair blog: "I've always believed in this horse and am very proud of what he has achieved over the last two seasons.

"With a better jump at the last fence, it would have been even closer between him, and Banbridge in the Grade 2 Silviniaco Chase at Kempton and he was giving 3lbs to the narrow winner.

"That was a career-best by Pic d'Orhy who is in top form at home and beat two smart horses at Ascot last time."

Pic d'Orhy will face six rivals at the Merseyside venue on Friday, with Jonbon, who steps up to two and a half miles for the first time, strong at the head of the market for trainer Nicky Henderson.

Nicholls, who enjoyed Aintree success yesterday when Sans Bruit ran out an empathic winner under Bryony Frost, said of the opposition: "There are some classy types in opposition again in this Grade 1 Chase, but he is classy, too, and I've kept him for this race which he won 12 months ago. He worked impressively on Saturday.

The front three in the Ryanair Chase will all reoppose, with Rachael Blackmore expecting a big run from Envoi Allen as he bids to get back to winning ways having found Protektorat four lengths too strong at the Cheltenham Festival.

"Envoi Allen came out of Cheltenham really well, he seems to be in great order," said Blackmore.

"He ran a brilliant race again in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, we were as happy as you could have been, in finishing second. Heavy ground wouldn't be his preference, but the Melling Chase is run over a slightly shorter trip than the Ryanair Chase, and Aintree's finish obviously isn't as stiff as Cheltenham's.

"It's going to be a very good race, but we're hoping that he can put up another solid performance."

Pic D'Orhy and Envoi Allen are currently 9/2 and 13/2 respectively with Paddy Power, who make Jonbon their 6/4 favourite for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade 1 prize.

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