'My Tent' can be an able deputy for Henderson
It's never a bad day's racing when the opening quartet are all Grade One contests and such is the case as the jumps focus turns to Aintree as the Grand National meeting kicks into action.
There's always an unpredictability to the Liverpool Festival with punters in the dark about recovery from Cheltenham exertions and today is no different with Supasundae heading the betting in the Aintree Hurdle (3.25).
Jessica Harrington's eight-year-old has been a revelation this season taking the Irish Champion Hurdle before running a brave second race at the Cotswolds behind Stayers' Hurdle winner Penhill in conditions that would not have suited.
The Moone handler, who won this race three years ago with Jezki, said the arrival of better ground in the spring would play to the strengths of Robbie Power's mount and the good-to-soft going will help his chances.
It's very hard to justify odds around even money, however, given his gruelling Cheltenham run last month and while he is the most likely victor, it may be wise to side with a fresher horse.
The absence of Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air robs us of what could have been one of the best duels of the season over 2m4f but Nicky Henderson has an able deputy in My Tent Or Yours, which has never been out of the top four in his 24 career runs (in the top two on 20 occasions).
The reliable 11-year-old missed another shot at Cheltenham glory after veterinary advice ruled him out of the Champion Hurdle - where he has been runner-up three times - and given how Melon, which he beat snugly at Cheltenham in December, pushed his stablemate to the pin of his collar, it wouldn't be crazy to say that the veteran would not have been a million miles off breaking his Festival duck.
Having been runner-up in this race for the last two years behind class acts in Buveur D'Air and Annie Power, today's opposition offers him a career swansong under Barry Geraghty.
The New One won this four years ago and while the ten-year-old is remarkably consistent, Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge looks past his best while the ex-Willie Mullins-trained Diakali is pitched right into the highest grade - third in this race in 2014 - in his first run for Gary Moore.
Kauto Star and Denman (twice) - two of the greatest chasers ever to grace a racecourse - have both failed to collect the Betway Bowl Chase (2.50) at short odds so the task of Gold Cup second Might Bite should not be underestimated.
Henderson's brilliant nine-year-old had the toughest race of his career when duelling with Native River in the Gold Cup four weeks ago and was unable to pick up as normal on a heavy sod.
Might Bite is the best horse in the race but odds-on is a risky proposition as horses coming here after the grinding blue riband have often underperformed and that also makes the task of Brian Ellison's Definitly Red (sixth) a difficult one, while Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai disappointed in this race 12 months ago and has a lot to prove away from his happy hunting ground of Haydock.
Last year's winner Tea For Two is a live contender for jockey Lizzie Kelly and her trainer stepfather Nick Williams but preference is for Double Shuffle, last seen when a length behind Might Bite in the King George on St Stephen's Day.
Adrian Heskin's mount will love the flat track at an ideal trip and while the eight-year-old hasn't gotten his head in front since December 2016, he is ultra-consistent and the fresh factor makes him very appealing at double-figure odds in a race which has thrown up some unlikely winners.
Henry de Bromhead's Calino D'airy is the sole Irish runner in the opening Grade One Manifesto Novices' Chase (1.45) but looks to be outclassed and Sean Flanagan will be hard pressed to keep pace with the likes of Paul Nicholls' Cyrname and the enigmatic Brain Power for Henderson.
Both Les Arceaux (De Bromhead) and Cristal Icon (Thomas Mullins) will be up against it in the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.20) where Henderson holds all the aces and We Have A Dream is tipped to edge out stable companion Apple's Shakira, which didn't live up to the hype when fourth in the Triumph.
On The Fringe won the Foxhunters' Open Hunters' Chase (4.05) over the National course in 2015 and 2016 but Enda Bolger's 13-year-old may be undone by Antrim trainer Graham John McKeever with Balnaslow, while John Queally's Getaway Katie Mai can take the closing Mares' Bumper (5.15).