Precision fencing will be the order of the day in this afternoon's Topham Trophy and when it comes to getting from one side of a steeplechase fence to another Indian Gunner (3.45) represents a true master of his craft.

In keeping with tradition the race is run over the Grand National obstacles, with one major difference - the horses go a lot faster because the distance covered is only two-miles-and-five-furlongs, compared with four-and-a-half-miles in tomorrow's big race.

Despite being a ten-year-old, Indian Gunner hasn't got many miles on the clock.

Even more significantly he has improved out of all proportion since being switched from hurdles to fences at the beginning of last season.

During that period the selection has won no less than six races, including a blistering success at Wincanton in February where he finished nine seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Eau de Cologne.

To explain the significance of the time differential, it roughly translates to a 36-length victory.

That's an astonishing performance in the light of the fact that Eau de Cologne, who is no slouch himself, has come out and won over the last couple of weeks.

Like any contender at Aintree, Indian Gunner will need Lady Luck to smile on him if he is to avoid the inevitable fallers. Hopefully not too many horses will come to grief from the 30-runner line-up, but at least he has got the pace to maintain a good early pitch, a tactic his regular partner, Robert "Chocolate" Thornton, will be fully alive to.

There is an outside chance that a runner from our region, Ballybrough Rasher (2.00), will claim the opening Thresher Handicap Chase for Howard Johnson.

Howard has a good record at Liverpool over recent years, notably with the now retired Direct Route.

Ballybrough Rasher is not in his league, but he has already won twice at the course, including last October when he jumped like a stag. Unfortunately that is not always the case, so if you do happen to invest on the Crook-based raider, do expect one or two extremely hairy moments along the way.

In terms of prestige, the £150,000 Martell Cognac Melling Chase forms the centrepiece of the card. But not for the first time, nor the last, it is very disappointing to see just six turning up to contest such a superb first prize

Last year's first and second, Native Upmanship and Wahiba Sands, again lock horns and there seems no earthly reason why the former should not confirm his superiority.

A magnificent second to Moscow Flyer in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham, Native Upmanship (3.10), trained by the legendary Irish handler Arthur Moore, is reportedly cherry-ripe in preparation to try and win for the second year in succession.

Martin Pipe and Tony McCoy enjoyed a double at the track yesterday and more success seems likely with Samon (5.30) coming to the boil just at the right time for the Clark's Brewery Handicap Hurdle.

Pipe had a record-breaking nine runners in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, Samon coming out best of the lot, beaten only by the massive gamble of the race, Xenophon. Clearly on the upgrade, Samon looks the one they all have to beat provided he has recovered from last month's exertions.

Get more on racing at our Racing North site.