Aintree compensation awaits for Kemboy and Buveur D'Air
Any hopes of Kemboy claiming Gold Cup honours were quickly dashed when unseating at the first fence in last month's blue riband but compensation may await in the Betway Bowl (2.50) as Aintree's Grand National meeting kicks off in style today.
That was an uncharacteristic mistake from Willie Mullins's progressive seven-year-old having been a revelation this season with a comprehensive win in the Grade One Savills Chase.
Ruby Walsh's mount has a lot in his favour and his Cheltenham blunder means that he comes here fresh, unlike his five rivals which had tough races at the Festival.
The Gold Cup is a particularly taxing affair and Nigel Twiston-Davies' Bristol De Mai (third), Paul Nicholls' Clan Des Obeaux (fifth), and Colin Tizzard's Elegant Escape (sixth) return 20 days after a gruelling test.
A flat track over a less stiff trip will suit Kemboy and it can pay to keep the faith, while Mullins sends Faugheen and Melon in pursuit of Nicky Henderson's Buveur D'Air in the Betway Aintree Hurdle (3.25).
The evergreen 11-year-old Faugheen was third home in the Stayers' Hurdle and may have his best days behind him while Melon was a distant second behind Espoir D'Allen in the Champion Hurdle, in which Buveur D'Air crashed out at the third.
That saw Henderson's hat-trick bid go up in smoke without landing a blow but having taken this 2m4f contest two years ago in good style, it would be a major surprise if Buveur D'Air doesn't bounce back to prevail under Barry Geraghty.
The opening Novices' Chase (1.45) is tailor-made for Warren Greatrex's brilliant mare La Bague Au Roi, unbeaten in four chase starts, having skipped the Cheltenham Festival in favour of a more suitable test at the Liverpool track.
She had subsequent RSA Chase winner Topofthegame and second Santini behind when landing a Grade One at Kempton in December before following up with success at the Dublin Racing Festival, while her 7lb mares' allowance adds further appeal.
The Juvenile Hurdle (2.20) looks a match between Festival winners Band Of Outlaws (Joseph O'Brien) and Henderson's Pentland Hills while the concluding Mares' Bumper (5.15) may go the way of Henry de Bromhead's Minella Melody.
De Bromhead has serious regard for the five-year-old, an easy scorer on her debut at Gowran last month, and she can oblige under Patrick Mullins.