Grumeti (left) starts to get on top of Countrywide Flame over the lastPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Revenge for Grumeti as he grabs Anniversary
Report: Aintree, Thursday
Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m1/2f,4yo
GRUMETI reversed JCB Triumph Hurdle form with Countrywide Flame to justify 11-4 favouritism as Robert Thornton and Alan King repeated their victories inthis race from 2009 with Walkon and 2007 with Katchit.
The first two had a ding-dong battle up the straight with Grumeti, third at Cheltenham, a length to the good from Triumph hero Countrywide Flame at the line. Both finished well clear of the rest, with Sadler's Risk taking third spot.
Sadly the race was marred by the serious injury to Gottany O's, who broke down badly in the back straight when leading.
The winner stayed on powerfully despitehaving looked in trouble turning for home as Countrywide Flame zipped into the straight in front, seemingly going best.
Dougie Costello kicked for home pretty early on his mount but a mistake at the second-last checked his momentum and from there the winner always seemed to hold the upper-hand with the stronger-looking Grumeti finding more reserves in terms of stamina.
Alan King: third Anniversary winPICTURE: Edward Whitaker
The success provided the McNeill family a second win in the race following the success of Walkon, who had also been placed in the Triumph.
"I was surprised he didn't travel better," said King. "Iwas worried leaving the back as he usually shows a lot of pace but he didn't today. But he battled on well and the right horses were there, the Triumph winner, and they pulled a long way clear.
"I thought he would travel better today and I'm still getting to know him."
Countrywide Flame lost nothing in defeat and more patient tactics would surely have suited him better. However, it's the winner who looks more a type for the future.
Ladbrokes now go as short as 16-1 for next year's Champion Hurdle for Grumeti - Hills are a much bigger 40-1 from 50s - but even if he doesn't make the top grade over hurdles then there is always the option of chasing in future and he should do well in that side of the game when he takes to it.