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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Might Bite adds to rock 'n' roll vibe as Liverpool pulses to Grand National beat

Might Bite (left) giving his all against Native River in the Cheltenham Gold Cup
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Unless you are of certain blue persuasions, there is an undeniable sense that the stars are aligning splendidly on Merseyside right now.

On Tuesday night, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and their heavy metal brand of football bulldozed their way through Manchester City and into a Champions League semi-final.

The city’s other sporting institution, the Grand National festival, might have found itself situated between that delirious first leg at Anfield and this week’s measured dismantling of the Premier League champions elect in Manchester.

However, with Easter falling early, Aintree’s vibrant three-day spectacular was pushed back a week. If not the stars aligning, then maybe just the lunar cycle.

It might be a stretch to suggest the delay removed a potential distraction from such a purposeful Liverpool team, but the upshot is that Aintree has the stage to itself and the usual carnival atmosphere could morph into something even more celebratory.

To these eyes, the National is the greatest standalone sporting event in the world. Sure, Cheltenham might always be the purist’s preference, but Aintree remains the iconoclastic alternative, a bit like Klopp’s rock ‘n’ roll gegenpressing representing a working class foil to Pep’s more classical tiki-taka philosophy.

And when Might Bite is in town, heavy metal will always be the order of the day.

Can Henderson ace resume winning ways? 

For so long, Nicky Henderson’s stunner bulldozed everything that dared cross his path.

He was a relentless force of nature, but we wondered whether such high-press tactics would hold up should he encounter a similarly pugilistic rival.

Those doubts were resoundingly dispelled in the Gold Cup, a gruelling war of attrition in which Nico de Boinville’s mount was carried out on his shield.

Native River deservedly won the lion’s share of the plaudits for his heroic triumph. Nonetheless, given the manner in which he and Might Bite pulverised the remainder, it would do Colin Tizzard’s brave winner no injustice to surmise he was first among equals in that particular duel.

As odds of 4-6 reflect, Might Bite ought to resume winning ways in Native River’s absence from the Betway Bowl. On all known form, he will, but form has a habit of taking leave during Aintree.

Definitly Red: bidding to leave his Betway Bowl rivals out in the cold

In this Grade 1 alone, in the past decade Kauto Star, Denman (twice), Imperial Commander, Riverside Theatre, Silviniaco Conti, Dynaste and Cue Card have all been vanquished after big performances in the Cotswolds.

The temptation might be to conclude that it’s best to avoid those who have had a hard race there, but Aintree always sources winners from the Cheltenham debris.

Of the seven on the corresponding card in 2017, Buveur D’Air and Defi Du Seuil followed up March successes, while Tea For Two, Flying Angel and Double W's built on contrasting reversals at Cheltenham to cause minor shocks.

The other two winners had missed the first spring gala, so good luck to anyone trying to generalise.

Definitly Red and last year's Bowl winner Tea For Two are among others who will strive to emerge victorious from the Gold Cup rubble. Double Shuffle, second to Might Bite in the King George VI Chase, and Bristol De Mai spearhead the delegation that bypassed Cheltenham.

With the likes of Henderson's returning We Have A Dream tackling stablemate Apple’s Shakira in the Doom Bar Anniversary Juvenile  Hurdle following her Triumph Hurdle flop and the exciting Cyrname due to clash heads with Arkle Trophy runner-up Brain Power in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, this is going to be a recurring dilemma in the quest for punting success.

Breathless sequence of Grade 1s

Proceedings get under way with a breathless sequence of four Grade 1s, culminating in the Aintree Hurdle. Buveur D’Air is absent, leaving Jessica Harrington’s Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up Supasundae with a glorious chance to plunder another top-level success.

The New One, who has so graced this prestigious event in victory and defeat, is sure to keep him honest, likewise the two-time runner-up My Tent Or Yours.

Anyone hoping for a chance to draw breath once those four elite contests are out of the way can think again. The helter-skelter pace will run straight into the Foxhunters' Chase.

Venerable performers in Foxhunters'

Last year’s gallant runner-up Balnaslow tops the page, with dual winner On The Fringe another among a clatter of venerable performers on duty. Of the 22 runners, 20 are aged ten years or older.

We tend to refer to those stalwarts as veterans, a word more appropriately deployed when speaking of the inspirational Guy Disney.

A military veteran who lost his lower right leg when his vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan in 2009, Disney last year became the first amputee to ride a winner under rules when plundering Sandown’s Royal Military Gold Cup on Rathlin Rose.

Here he partners Kim Bailey's Gallery Exhibition in his quest to enhance that glorious legacy with a triumph over the Grand National fences.

Conquering the formidable Aintree spruce with a prosthetic leg? Life surely doesn’t get any more rock ‘n’ roll than that.

Aintree Thursday card


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When Might Bite is in town, heavy metal will always be the order of the day
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