BOLD-JUMPING Bindaree (3.45) has an outstanding chance to lift this afternoon's John Hughes Memorial Chase run over the National fences at Aintree.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained chaser, provided he is operating on a left-handed track, has a reputation for leaping like a gazelle. He has also been confined to top-class company, running almost exclusively in either Grade 1 or Grade 2 events.

It therefore figures he may find the drop to handicap company less taxing, especially as he has been rated rather generously in my view at only 140.

In a maximum field of 30 runners, Bindaree's naturally exuberant style should keep him at the head of affairs and away from the inevitable trouble in behind.

Expertly prepared high on the bleak moors above Bingley in West Yorkshire, Errand Boy (2.00) can showed he's made of sterner stuff than his rivals in the opening Heidseck Novices' Handicap Chase.

Sue Smith's useful ex-hurdler has taken time to get his act together over the bigger obstacles, but there was plenty to like about his close second to Mr Percy over an inadequate two miles at Leicester in January.

Today he steps up another four furlongs, a move in my book certain to bring about further improvement. Another big plus is the easing of the ground since he's a big horse who loves to get his toe in the turf.

In terms of prize money, the Martell Melling Chase boasts by far the biggest purse on offer with a total of £120,000 to be distributed among the first three home.

Crook-based trainer-farmer Howard Johnson, still reeling from having to have 1,000 sheep and cattle culled due to foot-and-mouth disease, fields Direct Route (3.10), bidding to win the contest for the third time.

It's a really tough call on a surface more testing than ideal, but I still believe he can do it, despite having to take on some of the best two-and-a-half-milers in the business.

Ferdy Murphy's Hindiana (4.20) has conditions to suit in the three-mile Sefton Novices' Hurdle, a race which also includes the unbeaten Scottish raider Skippers Cleuch, plus Tim Easterby's smart stayer Garruth.

Apart from Valley Henry, I cannot envisage anything getting within sniffing distance of the outstanding northern trio, all of whom have the potential to challenge for many more major honours in the years to come.

There's a titanic clash in store between Shotgun Willy and Bacchanal in the Mildmay Novices Chase, without a shadow of doubt the season's leading young chasers.

Having seen yesterday's headline horse, First Gold, blitzing a Gold Cup standard line-up into submission, Shotgun Willy (4.50) has to be the tip.

The Paul Nicholls' trained representative beat the French raider fair and square at Newbury in February, confirming his own future championship aspirations.

Best bet at Wetherby is Valigan (3.35), who looks head and shoulders above the opposition in the Racecourse Novices' Chase.