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Grand National - Racing: O'Brien content to skip Cheltenham

Joseph O’Brien believes the fact Fakir D’Oudairies skipped a bruising encounter with Allaho at the Cheltenham Festival will pay dividends at Aintree next week.

The triple Grade 1 hero, who has not raced since winning the Betfair Ascot Chase in February, will head to Merseyside next week as a "fresh horse" to defend his Melling Chase crown.

Cheltenham eventually ruled out

O'Brien revealed running at Cheltenham was discussed with the seven-year-old's owner JP McManus and his racing manager Frank Berry, but the conversation led to the trainer altering his preparations.

Fakir D'Oudairies has met Allaho in three of his last seven starts, with the scoreline 3-0 in favour of Cheveley Park's relentless galloper. When not taking on Allaho during the same period, form figures for the O'Brien-trained chaser read 1311.

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Regardless of whether Mullins opts to send Allaho to Aintree for the Marsh-backed 2m4f contest, O'Brien says his jumps flagbearer will be primed for a Liverpool repeat.

O'Brien said: "He's on course for Aintree and in great nick. We trained him with the thought that he could go to Cheltenham, and to see what was happening late on.

"JP and Frank decided that it made most sense to go to Aintree instead, and I think it does."

"Fresh" hopes for Aintree success

He added: "If taking on Allaho at Cheltenham, realistically speaking, you were probably running for second. Looking at his performance in the Ryanair, it's probably what we would have been doing. Instead, we're heading to Aintree with a fresh horse."

Fakir D’Oudairies will bid to become the sixth horse to win the race on back-to-back occasions, following in the footsteps of Viking Flagship, Direct Route, Native Upmanship, Moscow Flyer and Voy Por Ustedes.

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