Lieutenant geared up for Bowl
First Lieutenant attempts to retain his Betfred Bowl crown on the first day of the Grand National meeting at Aintree on Thursday.
Mouse Morris's class act gained due reward for a succession of consistent efforts in the best races when winning this Grade One last year, although he was forced to miss last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup when he failed to eat up on the morning of the race.
With Gigginstown's retained rider Bryan Cooper on the sidelines, Barry Geraghty will ride the nine-year-old for the first time.
"We'll give it our best shot at retaining it. It's a tricky sort of race, it's only a small field and it's difficult to know if anyone wants to make the running. We've done that before though, so if nobody else wants to go on, I'm sure we won't have a problem with that," said Morris.
"I'm just a bit worried about the rain that's forecast, we thought the ground would be perfect for him but there's a bit about. I hope the rain comes after the race. Barry has been down to school him, he's never ridden him in a race but he's uncomplicated and Barry has ridden him plenty of times and should know all about him by now."
Tom Taaffe's Argocat is another Irish raider and has Tony McCoy in the saddle. He won the Red Mills Chase when last seen but will need to take his form to a new level.
"I have to be pleased with his performance at Gowran because, on ground too heavy for him, he put up a very brave performance in what was effectively his second run of the season," said Taaffe.
"He had a very bad fall at Down Royal in November and it took him a long time to get over that as he broke a number of ribs and different things.
"It was our preferred choice to skip Cheltenham and go straight to Aintree with him. He's only six so I would be hoping there is a bit of improvement in him. He won over three miles at Limerick, so the trip should be OK, and better ground will definitely help."
Dynaste silenced a few doubters with a stylish win in the Ryanair Chase, and now the eight-year-old steps back up in trip as he tackles a course and distance over which he was successful 12 months ago as a novice.
"It was a fantastic result at Cheltenham and it was great to win another Grade One on him, especially with it coming at the Cheltenham Festival. More of the same is what we're looking for, but we know it will be very competitive. It's a small field but very select," said jockey Tom Scudamore.
"At no stage during the Ryanair did I want to rush him, which is why it maybe looked like I was quite far back. It was always the intention to come very late on him. They always go quick in the championship races and I knew I'd be able to sit off them. The trip shouldn't worry him, he won over it last year so the track obviously suits him."
The Paul Nicholls-trained Silviniaco Conti won the King George in December, beating Cue Card, and when he took up the running in the Gold Cup it looked like he would emulate former stablemate Kauto Star in winning the two biggest races of the season. But despite jumping the last in front he faded to finish fourth.
"He ran a good, solid race in the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup was only his third run. He ran well in the Betfair, won the King George, and then the Gold Cup. He'll actually be coming here relatively fresh, so we may as well run. Obviously, as with all the Cheltenham runners, you just hope it isn't coming too quick but you won't know until they run," said Nicholls.