Owner John Hales has, on many levels, a deep wish that Politologue can run honourably in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday.
Paul Nicholls’ grey stumbled and fell after the last fence when the Maghull Novices’ Chase was seemingly in safe-keeping 12 months ago, but for Hales, this season’s Aintree meeting takes on even greater poignancy.
Twenty years ago, the owner was reduced to tears as One Man, the brilliant grey from Gordon Richards’ yard, fractured a tibia bone and had to be put down after a fall at the ninth fence in the Melling Chase.
Time has helped ease the pain, but Hales will never forget him.
“The sadness is now over,” he told Press Association Sport.
“I also like to think Aintree paid us back when Neptune Collonges won the Grand National six years ago.
“It was a terrible, terrible day when we lost One Man, but when I return to Aintree now, the feeling I have is one of pride about what he achieved on a racecourse.”
Politologue’s task has been lessened by Altior’s defection from the Melling, but a strong Irish challenge nonetheless stands in his way.
This season’s Tingle Creek winner must also banish memories of a rather subdued performance in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, when he was well beaten into fourth place.
Hales said: “Altior is a freak and probably the best horse in training, so it helps that he isn’t running.
“It’s still a very competitive race, but I think stepping back up to two and a half miles will suit Politologue.
“They’ll also go a slower pace over a longer trip and on slower ground compared to Cheltenham.
“We’ll have his wind looked at in the summer because I’m not sure he got up the hill in the Queen Mother, but hopefully he still does a bit better than at Cheltenham.”
Nicholls also saddles Le Prezien, who won the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival.
The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old will still need to step up to match strides with Champion Chase runner-up Min, who represents Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci.
Patrick Mullins, the trainer’s son and assistant, said: “He ran a fantastic race in Cheltenham and no Altior there makes life easier.
“He won over two and a half miles on his first start of the season at Gowran, so the trip and ground shouldn’t be a problem.
“If he can reproduce his Cheltenham form, he must have a good chance in a fascinating race.”
Min’s compatriot Balko Des Flos won the Ryanair Chase at the Festival and is also a big player for Henry de Bromhead.
“He seems in great form. Obviously he is coming back over to England again, so we will see how he gets on here, but he is in great form at home,” said the Knockeen-based trainer.
“We always knew he was a good horse, it was just a case of whether the ground would suit him or not at Cheltenham. Thankfully it did and it was a great day.
“Davy (Russell) gave him a super ride at Cheltenham and he did what we hoped he might do and it was great to see.
“Of course races at Cheltenham can take it out of them, but he seems in good form and appears fresh and well.
“We will find out how he is tomorrow.”
Ryanair third Cloudy Dream and big outsider Sizing Granite complete the six-runner field.