The Grand National Festival starts on Thursday with an excellent card, and our in-form tipster Kevin Blake has two selections for you to consider on day one...
"It wouldn't be at all surprising if his connections have had this race in mind for him for the last few months and with him having slipped back to a fair mark, he can be expected to run a big race."
The Betway Aintree Hurdle (15:25) may lack a stand-out star, but it has attracted a competitive field that makes for a fascinating betting contest.
Jason can take step up in class in his stride
Most of the main contenders have some concerns either over the suitability of the trip/ground or whether they have the class to win a race of this nature, but some are available at more appealing prices than others. The one that I have sided with is the Henry De Bromhead-trained Jason The Militant.
The seven-year-old has quietly progressed his way into the upper echelons of the Irish hurdling ranks this season and his impressive defeat of Petit Mouchoir, to whom he was conceding 9lb, at Fairyhouse in February was particularly impressive. That his victim came out and almost won the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival off a mark of 155 on his next start gives that form an even greater shine.
The unknowns with Jason The Militant are twofold. Firstly, his connections have a view that soft ground is important to him and opted not to run him in the Champion Hurdle due to concerns over the ground, so there is a possibility that he could be withdrawn if they aren't satisfied with the ground on Thursday.
If he lines up, he'll also have to prove that he stays this longer trip, but that is less of a concern, as he shapes as though he has the stamina for the test this race is likely to present.
All told, while Jason The Militant has a couple of significant boxes left to tick coming into this race, it wouldn't at all surprise if he swipes them off in style on the day.
Moon to shine off lower mark
The other race of interest on the card is the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (16:40) and Henry De Bromhead is again the trainer in focus with his Moon Over Germany looking to have an excellent chance.
The 10-year-old ran out the impressive winner of this race two years ago off a 12lb lower mark, benefiting from an aggressively positive ride. He found more improvement over fences later that year, but was then switched back to hurdling, most notably finishing sixth in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season.
He made his return to chasing on what was also his comeback from a winter break in the Webster Cup at Navan last month and despite making a bad mistake at the third fence, he shaped well for a long way under a sympathetic ride.
It wouldn't be at all surprising if his connections have had this race in mind for him for the last few months and with him having slipped back to a fair mark, he can be expected to run a big race.