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Nicholls keen on McFabulous living up to his name in Grade 2 bumper

Paul Nicholls: good shout with McFabulous
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5.15 Aintree
Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2) | 2m1f, 4yo-6yo | RTV

McFabulous, a half-brother to Waiting Patiently who runs in the JLT Melling Chase on Friday's card, represents Paul Nicholls in the second day finale and will be seeking a third win in four starts.

Nicholls said of Harry Cobden's mount: "McFabulous is a horse I like. He won well first time out at Chepstow and then had sore shins after running at Cheltenham in November.

"So we left him alone until February when he again won well at Chepstow. Any more rain would help him."

Dan Skelton, too, is keen on his representative Montego Grey and said: "He's run well in two good bumpers, especially at Ascot, and we kept him back for this race. He's a hurdler for next season but I'm happy to have a crack at this race first."

Bacardys in 2016 was the most recent Irish-trained winner of the race and there is a three-strong raiding party from Ireland this time with Santa Rossa, winner of both starts, joined by the Ted Walsh-trained Dewcup, a winner at Thurles, and the John Halley-trained Blackhillsofdakota, who won at Limerick after finishing second to Dewcup at Thurles.

Dermot McLoughlin, trainer of Santa Rossa, said: "We were going to run her in the mares' bumper [on Thursday] but she would have had to carry a penalty in that race so we changed the plan. She's in good shape."

Colin Tizzard is represented by Master Debonair, and the trainer's son Joe said: "He was far too keen at the Cheltenham Festival. He'd run his race in the first mile really and then stopped.

"We'll have to tryto switch him off a little bit here but his form is rock-solid– the horse he beat at Cheltenham earlier in the year was third in the Champion Bumper. One bad run doesn't make him a bad horse and as long as he learns to settle then, hopefully, he'll run a decent race."

The 15 runner line-up also includes Ebony Jewel, the mount of Lucy Alexander and a 12-length winner at Ayr on his most recent start last month.

Spotlight verdict

There are only two maidens in this field of 15 but one of them, Montego Grey, might be the answer. Dan Skelton's gelding made a lung-bursting forward move to press the leaders in the closing stages of a Listed race at Ascot in December before having his momentum checked and fading into fifth. That form looks strong and his performance can be upgraded. McFabulous impressed at Newbury last month and is second choice but the Irish hold a strong hand, with Santa Rossa, Blackhillsofdakota and Dewcup all respected.

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He's run well in two good bumpers and we kept him back for this race. He;s next season's hurdler but I'm happy to have a crack at this race first
E.W. Terms