JUBILANT jockey Nico de Boinville hailed Might Bite as “one of the best” horses of his career after a classy victory in the Grade One Betway Bowl, the opening-day highlight of Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
It is some testimony. The rider has been associated with the legendary Sprinter Sacre and Altior, past and present winners of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, as well as former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree.
Runner-up to the mudlark Native River in last month’s Gold Cup, which became a real war of attrition between the pair, yesterday’s contest saw Yorkshire challenger Definitly Red unseat jockey Danny Cook at the third.
The early pace was set by Grade One-winner Bristol De Mai and he did force a couple of errors from Might Bite, but de Boinville’s mount grew in confidence – despite its Cheltenham exertions – and showed his brilliance in the home straight.
If conditions are in his favour and not too testing, he will be the horse to beat in next season’s major steeplechases – Haydock’s Betfair Chase, Kempton’s King George and the Gold Cup.
Victory also provided de Boinville with some consolation after his intended Grand National mount Gold Present was declared a non-runner
“He was fantastic, he deserves so much credit. He’s a magnificent animal and a joy to ride,” eulogised the jockey.
“Might Bite is right up there with the best horses I have ridden. He’s got a real touch of class. That quirkiness seems to have been knocked out of him.
“He is one who will absolutely die for you. He is an extension of yourself – he will find strides and put you right. It is a privilege to ride horses like this.
“That’s made up for the fact that I’m not riding in the National.”
Henderson, whose We Have A Dream produced an impressive front-running performance to land the Grade One Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle, added: “His jumping (yesterday) was just an exhibition round – he’s all class.
“I’d love to have another crack at the Gold Cup on good ground.”
The Foxhunters’ Chase for amateur riders over the Grand National fences went to last year’s runner-up Balnaslow with Greensalt a creditable third for Great Habton racing legend Peter Easterby’s grandson William.
However, both Balnaslow’s rider Derek O’Connor, and Easterby, will be in awe of amputee soldier Captain Guy Disney who successfully completed the course on Gallery Exhibition. Disney lost part of his leg in Afghanistan in 2009 and did not look out of place taking on the world famous fences.
The Red Rum Chase, celebrating the three-time Aintree hero, went to Charlie Longsdon’s Bentelimar and completed a day to remember for jockey Johnny Burke. Earlier, he learned that he will partner Childrens List in the National.
Today’s action at Aintree sees Irish Roe – trained by Northallerton farmer Peter Atkinson and his wife Lucinda – take her chance in the Grade One novice hurdle after bypassing Cheltenham because of unsuitably soft ground.
She will be ridden by Middleham jockey Henry Brooke who is then due to partner former Becher Chase winner Highland Lodge in the Topham Chase over the Grand National course.
Placed in the last three Becher Chases, Jimmy Moffatt’s veteran did not quite see out the marathon National trip last year and this shorter race has always been the target for connections of this brave frontrunner.
The feature Grade One JLT Melling Chase over two and a half miles sees Malton trainer Ruth Jefferson’s Cloudy Dream take on a select field that includes Min, a faller in last month’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Politologue from the yard of Paul Nicholls.
Placed in all five runs this season without winning, the task facing Jefferson’s grey, owned by Trevor Hemmings, is made slightly easier by the absence of the aforementioned Altior.