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Big hitters at Aintree opener

AINTREE'S Grand National meeting gets under way tomorrow andthe opening day’s card at the Liverpool track is one to savour.

The highlight is undoubtedly set to be the Liverpool Hurdle, in which Big Buck’s will bid to win a 17th consecutive race for Paul Nicholls.

Just seven rivals will take on the nine-year-old who is bidding to win the three-mile Grade One contest for a fourth year in a row, and win at the Grand National meeting for a fifth consecutive year.

Alan King's Smad Place comes closest on official ratings, after he finished third, beaten eight and three parts of a length in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Poungach and Tidal Bay also represent the Nicholls’ team, while Irish raider Won In The Dark faces an uphill task on the ratings but has ran well at Aintree before and may run a decent race despite the quality of opposition.

The opposition is immaterial to Big Buck’s though. There are few more dependable horses you'd want on your side when bidding to take up such an opportunity.

Tomorrow's Betfred Bowl has attracted 11 runners and even without the likes of Long Run it's still an intriguing affair. Nicky Henderson appears to hold a pair of aces in the race as he sends out Ryanair Chase winner Riverside Theatre and Gold Cup fourth Burton Port, the latter being the subject of some support with a couple of bookmakers last weekend.

Barry Geraghty (pictured) has unsurprisingly stuck with Riverside Theatre following his Cheltenham success and it would be extremely hard to argue with that decision as he has been a revelation since returning from a bit of a lay-off last season. The most interesting runner of the field is undoubtedly Hunt Ball. Another who triumphed at Cheltenham, the seven-year-old has gone from winning off a rating of 68 to winning the Pulteney Land Investments Chase at Cheltenham last month off a mark of 142.

Tomorrow he'll be racing off level weights and his rise and progression will be tested to the max. It'll be interesting to see how he fares out in Grade One company.

Alan King's Medermit will be a leading player as he only has a length to make up on Riverside Theatre from their Cheltenham meeting, while What A Friend is another to note following his early exit in the Gold Cup.