Might Bite proves his class as Jacob thrives
Might Bite made light of a gruelling Gold Cup run last month to stamp his class all over the Betway Bowl on day one of Aintree's Grand National meeting with trainer Nicky Henderson declaring it "as good a round of jumping as you'll ever see".
Henderson had been second guessing whether to run the blue riband second after his titanic battle with Native River at the Cotswolds but the nine-year-old showed no ill effects to cruise home.
Might Bite (4/5 favourite) gave his supporters one minor worry with a slight mistake at the fourth-last, but Nico de Boinville had no problem getting the King George winner back on the bridle to swat aside Bristol De Mai as Sub Lieutenant could only muster fifth for Henry de Bromhead.
A jubilant Henderson said: "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.
"We'll be a bit braver next year, though, and we might have a crack at the Betfair Chase. To defend the King George is the obvious one."
It was another special day for the Seven Barrows handler as he recorded a 31/1 treble with Wexford jockey Daryl Jacob doing the needful on both We Have A Dream (2/1) - which upset stablemate Apple's Shakira (13/8f) in the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle - and L'Ami Serge (5/1).
Having earned a reputation for travelling strongly and not picking up when push comes to shove, Jacob got a great tune out of L'Ami Serge off a strong gallop and the eight-year-old was impressive in defeating Jessica Harrington's Supasundae (11/10f) in the Aintree Hurdle.
"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," Jacob said.
Henderson added: "He's an enigma. They didn't go fast enough for him in the Stayers' Hurdle. He does deserve one for all the names he has been called, but he does threaten to win races."
It was another special day for Waterford trainer John Queally - who had many great days with Al Eile at Aintree - as Getaway Katie Mai (13/8f) scored in good style in the Grade Two Mares' Bumper for top amateur Jamie Codd.
He wasn't the only Irish amateur making waves at the Liverpool meeting, however, with Cork rider Derek O'Connor showing all his experience to help Balnaslow go one better than last year when taking the Foxhunters' Chase over the National fences.
O'Connor said: "He's a fabulous horse, a brilliant jumper and tries his heart out. I couldn't have asked for the race to go any better. Personally, it's a massive thrill. Riding winners round the country is lovely, but there is something about the challenge, the trials and the tribulations of the Aintree fences."
De Boinville's big-race success aside, Irish jockeys were dominant as Robbie Power combined with Colin Tizzard to steer Finian's Oscar (5/2) to success in the Grade One Manifesto Novices' Chase. Cork rider Jonathan Burke also got in on the act when driving Bentelimar (10/1) home in the Red Rum Chase.