With rain likely; the going must be watched before punts ventured and we believe that if it arrives as anticipated, INDIAN GROOM can give weight all around to Thumbs Up and Zanir. Howard Johnson has his team in good order at present and with form assured on a softer surface; the High Chapparal gelding makes plenty of appeal. He signed off last season with a fair fifth in the Fred Winter race at Cheltenham. Thumbs Up was in rude health at the back end of last season. Course form at Aintree counts for plenty on this tight hurdles track. Zanir has been off for a year. He acts on the surface and the market will give us an idea as to his wellbeing. European Dream has been held off similar marks in the past and invariably pulls too hard. Premier Dane reverts to hurdling having had a degree of success in a couple of weak chases. Sunsetten represents a yard that have been amongst the winners of late and Jake Greenall is well worth his 7lb claim. Front Rank has been in good order on the flat and at the bottom of the weights, may surprise those quick to dismiss him as a no hoper. Of the remainder, Nampour should be fit enough to do himself justice. Indian Groom is accordingly selected in a race where the market will tell us plenty.
Indian Groom (IRE) 33-1 (10-13) In touch, disputing 4th when blundered last, stayed on, 5th of 22, 6l behind Silk Affair (10-4) at Cheltenham 2m Grade 3 nov hcp hdl (4yo) (1) gs in Mar.
Premier Dane (IRE) 7-1 (11-6) Held up in touch, outpaced 5 out, never on terms, 5th of 6, 30l behind Salford City (11-6) at Perth 2m nov stks (2) gd in Apr.
Amazing King (IRE) 25-1 (10-12) Held up towards rear, hampered 5th, weakened after 3 out, 9th of 17, 19l behind Treaty Flyer (10-3) at Market Rasen 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-145 (2) gd in Sep.
European Dream (IRE) 28-1 (11-0) Mid-division, stayed on from last, never troubled leaders, 6th of 21, 11l behind Culcabock (11-0) at Aintree 2m cond hcp hdl 4yo+ (2) gs in Apr.
Nampour (FR) 4-1 (10-10) Led, hit 4 out, ridden and headed 2 out, weakened and hit last, 5th of 9, 9l behind James De Vassy (10-4) at Chepstow 2m 4yo hcp hdl (2) gd.
Thumbs Up 8-11fav (11-1) In touch, close on leaders approaching 3 out, quickened up to laad approaching last, ran on, won at Aintree 2m nh nov hdl (4) gs in May beating Coin Of The Realm (10-8) by 3 1/2l, 8 ran.
Sir Boreas Hawk 11-4 (11-12) Tracked leaders, ridden and 3 lengths down in 2nd when mistake 2 out, one pace from last, 2nd of 6, 3l behind Master Nimbus (10-11) at Wetherby 2m hcp hdl 0-135 (3) gf in Oct '07.
Zanir (FR) 14-1 (10-13) In touch, blundered 3 out, chased winner last, lost 3rd towards finish, 4th of 14, 4 1/2l behind French Opera (11-8) at Aintree 2m 1f hcp hdl 0-140 (2) gs in Oct '08.
Stellino (GER) 22-1 (11-8) Held up, outpaced 3 out, headway under pressure after next, ridden and kept on flat, no impression, 5th of 11, 6l behind Hello Nod (10-10) at Kelso 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gd.
Harry Tricker 16-1 (11-9) Held up in rear, hampered 6th, soon lost touch, tailed off wen pulled up before 2 out, in a race won by Dancewiththedevil (10-13) at Stratford 2m hcp hdl 0-125 (3) gf in Sep, 15 ran.
Sunsetten (IRE) 25-1 (11-7) Held up towards rear, mistake 2nd, headway 6th, ridden 3 out, not fluent 2 out, hit last, weakened flat, 4th of 14, 10l behind Bedizen (11-5) at Stratford 2m nov hcp hdl 0-120 (3) gd in Apr.
Magellan Straits 10-1 (11-1) Held up towards rear, weakened after 5 out, 5th of 11, well behind Quinz (10-8) at Haydock 2m 4f nov hcp hdl (2) gd in Apr.
Front Rank (IRE) 16-1 (11-5) In touch, dropped to mid-division 3rd, lost place 3 out, weakened from next, 8th of 11, 15l behind Hello Nod (10-10) at Kelso 2m hcp hdl 0-130 (3) gd.