Might Bite impresses as Henderson enjoys Grade One treble at Aintree
L’Ami Serge and We Have A Dream also win on opening day of festival
Might Bite ridden by Nico de Boinville jumps the last on the way to winning the Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Might Bite stamped his class on the Betway Bowl with a comfortable victory at Aintree as trainer Nicky Henderson enjoyed a dream start to the Grand National festival with a Grade One treble.
Henderson had been agonising over whether to run the nine-year-old after his epic battle with Native River in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, yet he need not have worried.
Bristol De Mai, having his first run since a wind operation, tried to take the sting out of the King George winner and made the running under Daryl Jacob.
Stepping up the pace on the second circuit, only Clan Des Obeaux could keep in touch with the big two, and only then at a respectable distance.
Briefly Might Bite supporters had a little panic with a mistake at the fourth-last, but he was quickly back on the bridle for Nico de Boinville
By the time the front two set down for a battle, Might Bite was going much the better and the 4-5 favourite won by seven lengths, with Clan Des Obeaux just over three lengths back in third.
De Boinville said: “He’s a magnificent animal and a joy to ride. He jumped with real panache and gusto.
“The ground is on the soft side and he really does feel that. He’s one who will actually die for you. I’m privileged to ride him.”
Henderson said: “That was as good a round of jumping as you’ll ever see. He was just on it the whole way – he was doing crazy things.
“The horse was just enjoying himself. He’s been telling us he’s right, but you just can’t tell until you run them how much they have left in the Cotswolds.
“That’s obviously it for this season. We’ll be a bit braver next year, though, and we might have a crack at the Betfair.
“To defend the King George is the obvious one, but if the ground is reasonable we will think about starting in the Betfair on the way to the King George.”
L’Ami Serge followed up Might Bite’s success by winning for the first time since the French Champion Hurdle in June in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
Having garnered something of a reputation for not putting everything into the finish of his races, he was ultimately impressive in beating Supasundae.
The race could not have been set up better for him, as Diakali set off at a rapid pace on his first run for Gary Moore.
Turning into the straight, Clyne had joined him and held an advantage for two furlongs, but approaching the final flight the leading players were mounting up.
Supasundae was first to challenge and while My Tent Or Yours began to fade, Dary Jacob brought L’Ami Serge with a race-winning move.
The 5-1 shot pulled three lengths clear, with Clyne sticking on for third.
Jacob said: “It was a very good performance. I was quite keen to come back to two and a half miles because it suits him well. He’s tough and when he’s on his A-game like that, he’s a very, very talented horse.”
Henderson’s We Have A Dream made up for missing Cheltenham with an easy success in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
Ruled out of the JCB Triumph Hurdle in the days leading up to the Festival, Henderson’s horse never looked in any danger of gaining significant compensation on Merseyside.
Daryl Jacob took up the running a long way from home, and only Philip Hobbs’s Gumball put up any sort of challenge to the 2-1 winner, coming home seven lengths back in second.
Apple’s Shakira, a stablemate of the winner, was ridden patiently by Barry Geraghty, but could only stay on into a well-beaten third despite being sent off the 13-8 favourite.
We Have A Dream has now won five on the bounce and connections will be dreaming of next season and all the top hurdle races.
Jacob said: “He’s a beautiful horse. From day one at Warwick I thought this lad might be a bit special. I think he is.
“We’re hoping he’s got a massive future. I think this fellow will be even better again when he steps up to two and a half [miles].”
Henderson said: “He was a sick horse. There was not much of a question of missing it [Cheltenham]. At the time it was frustrating missing it and I said to the boys we couldn’t have gone there, but on the other hand maybe that was the best thing about that. Maybe he’s a fresh horse.
“He was always enjoying himself there. He was fresh and well. But he was pretty sick. On that Monday morning his manger hadn’t been touched and he had a temperature. We’ve had four weeks and that was quick enough.
“He is a good horse and that was a good performance, but none of the first three in the Triumph Hurdle have turned up. Let’s sit back and enjoy that. He is unbeaten through the year and has won two Grade One races.
“He has got his life in front of him and has not stopped improving all season. That is it for the season.”
Finian’s Oscar won at the Grand National meeting for the second successive year when coming with a late flourish to win the Big Buck’s Celebration Manifesto Novices’ Chase.
Colin Tizzard’s charge had made several errors on his way round and jumping the second-last he was in a poor fourth.
Cyrname set a good early gallop, but jumped to his right on several occasions, effectively ruining his chance. Harry Skelton tracked him until turning into the straight on Rene’s Girl and the mare appeared to have everything covered.
But Finian’s Oscar finally began to stay on running to the last and while Rene’s Girl jumped it well, her stride was shortening and the well-supported 5-2 chance won going away in the end under Robbie Power.