The 10-year-old made a pleasing reappearance in his first run for 11 months, and his first since joining the Nicky Henderson stable, when fifth to Albertas Run in the Ryanair Chase.
All roads now lead back to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile feature which he won in 2008 and 2009.
“He’s come out of his race very well and Nicky seems to be pleased with him, and the plan is to go to Aintree,” said Barry Simpson, racing manager to owner Sir Robert Ogden.
“The Melling Chase is the race we‘ve been targeting for several weeks.
“We were pleased with his performance at Cheltenham.
“He ran very well for a very long way.”
The owner is also set to have his colours carried by Sagalyrique in the John Smith‘s Topham Chase over the Grand National fences on the same card.
“He‘s in the National, but he won‘t get in. It‘s very likely he‘ll run in the Topham,” Simpson added.
The seven-year-old, trained by Donald McCain, won at Ayr and Doncaster in January but was pulled up in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton on his latest start.
Somersby, who was fifth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival, is also being earmarked for that race.
“He‘s come out of his race at Cheltenham very well and he‘s going to run in the Melling Chase at Liverpool,” said the trainer Henrietta Knight.
Meanwhile connections of Long Run will keep a close eye on ground conditions before deciding whether the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero will run again this spring.
The totesport Bowl at Aintree on Thursday week, in which he could renew rivalry with Gold Cup runner-up Denman, is the only race being considered for Long Run ahead of his summer break at owner Robert Waley-Cohen‘s Upton Viva Stud in Oxfordshire.
“He’ll either go straight back to our stud or go to Aintree first on the way,” said Waley-Cohen.
“He‘s in good form and I want the ground to be 100% for him if he is going to run at Aintree.
“We don‘t want him to have too many races on fast ground.
“The Gold Cup was an epic race and obviously we got the right result and we are excited about what‘s coming along, too.”
Chris Bealby took Surface To Air on a ramble round the Lincolnshire countryside yesterday as part of his preparation for the John Smith‘s Grand National.
The 10-year-old is on course for the Aintree showpiece on Saturday week, although he only returned to action at Market Rasen earlier this month after suffering from tendon problems following his victory in the Summer National at Uttoxeter in June 2008.
He is now in line to be Bealby‘s first runner in the Grand National and the Grantham-based handler is certainly varying the horse’s training regime.
“He‘s enjoyed the sunshine and he‘ll do another bit of work on Wednesday. Everything’s going as it should, touch wood,” said Bealby.
“He needed that first run back after nearly three years off the track. Obviously he didn‘t have the speed to cope with those hurdlers on a sharp track, but staying is what it‘s all about with him.
“Hopefully it will be a different matter at Aintree. It will be great to get there really as he‘s had tendon trouble on and off since he won the Summer National.”