NICKY Henderson is hopeful Might Bite can bounce back from his Cheltenham Gold Cup exertions in today’s Betway Bowl, the day one highlight of Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
Though Henderson is not racing Buveir D’Air and Altior, winners of the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase respectively, on Merseyside this week because of their gruelling exertions at the National Hunt festival, he’s given the green light to Might Bite. Narrowly beaten by Native River in an epic duel for the blue riband Gold Cup, the question is whether Henderson’s horse has had sufficient time to recover from such an arduous race just four weeks ago to land this Grade One race.
“I was delighted with his run in the Gold Cup and he has come out of it in great form,” said the champion trainer.
“The ground was soft there and it will obviously be the same here.
“I don’t know how much Cheltenham has taken out of him, but his work has been excellent, as has his schooling, and he must come here with a great chance.”
The same concern applies to North Yorkshire challenger Defintly Red, who was a far-from-disgraced sixth at Cheltenham for trainer Brian Ellison and jockey Danny Cook on ground that was not to the horse’s liking.
“He seems all right. I wouldn’t have been sure a week or so ago, but the extra week has definitely helped – he’s really come alive in the last week,” said Ellison.
“This is a different day, a different track and different ground to Cheltenham. Hopefully, he’ll run a big race.”
However, the unknown is Bristol De Mai.
The winner of Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase was then a staggering 57-length winner of the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, but proved no match for Might Bite at Kempton on Boxing Day and was a shade disappointing again when only third to Definitly Red in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January.
It remains to be seen whether a wind operation – and an extended break – has revitalised the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey whose opponents include 2017 winner Tea For Two, who is trained by Nick Williams and the mount of his stepdaughter Lizzie Kelly.
Meanwhile, Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira and We Have A Dream belatedly lock horns in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
The duo were set to line up in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but We Have A Dream was withdrawn after a late setback.
His absence meant Apple’s Shakira was a red-hot favourite for the juvenile championship, but she could finish only fourth.
The race sees Saltburn jockey James Reveley, France’s champion jockey in 2016, return to these shores to partner French challenger Beau Gosse.
However, all eyes will be on Captain Guy Disney when he partners Gallery Exhibition in the Foxhunters’ Chase for amateur riders over the Grand National course.
He will become the first amputee to ride over Aintree’s famous Grand National fences, adding to a racing career which has defied convention after his left leg was amputated below the knee when blown apart by a rocket-propelled grenade whilst the soldier was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009. When he won Sandown’s Royal Artillery Gold Cup last year on Rathlin Rose, Captain Disney became the first jockey to ride a winner under rules in Britain with a prosthetic leg.
He repeated the feat on the same horse this year.
The going on the National course is now soft, with final declarations at 10am due to reveal whether Sue Smith’s I Just Know, a confirmed runner, will be joined by stablemates Delusionofgrandeur and Vintage Clouds.
They need three and five higher-rated horses respectively to pull out to make the 40-runner cut.