Mullins joy as Kemboy strikes back
Kemboy took centre stage at Aintree as he made up for his early Cheltenham exit with an emphatic victory in the Betway Bowl Chase.
Day one of the Grand National Festival opened with four Grade One contests and, in Kemboy's case, the contrast between Cheltenham anti-climax and Aintree glory could hardly have been more stark.
Just under three weeks ago, the seven-year-old's Gold Cup challenge was over within seconds as he unshipped David Mullins via a mysterious stumble.
That despair was displaced by elation yesterday as Kemboy, ridden for only the second time by Ruby Walsh, led throughout and easily accounted for his five opponents by upwards of nine lengths to win as the 9-4 favourite for Willie Mullins.
Clan Des Obeaux and Bristol De Mai, respectively fifth and third to Kemboy's stablemate Al Boum Photo at Cheltenham, had to settle for minor honours again - in second and fourth this time - with outsider Balko Des Flos outrunning his odds in third.
Mullins said: "He never put a foot wrong. Maybe he'll go to Punchestown, but I think he can go further than that. He might go to America later in the season."
Walsh added: "It felt smooth. He was in a great rhythm. He was eyeing his fences up and was meeting them on a good stride."
It was a good day for trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power after Supasundae went one better than the previous year with victory in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
Rain made for a muddy and eventful edition of a race in which odds-on favourite Buveur D'Air came up short.
With Faugheen pulled up and later reported to have an irregular heartbeat, Melon was four lengths clear coming into the straight, only to take a fall and slightly impede Buveur D'Air.
But it was Supasundae who took over going to the final flight and ground out victory at 15-2.
Harrington said: "He will go to Punchestown, whether he goes two miles or three miles I've got to make up my mind. He is a marvellous horse."
Kalashnikov got the three-day meeting off to a memorable start in the Devenish Manifesto Novices' Chase as he bounced back from his Arkle mishap to score a first Grade One success for trainer Amy Murphy.
Kalashnikov was an emphatic 4-1 winner, overcoming a jolting mistake two out as he and Jack Quinlan had one and a quarter lengths to spare at the line from favourite La Bague Au Roi.
Murphy said: "Next season it will all be about the Ryanair. Hopes and dreams."
Pentland Hills' victory in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle was the day's sole instance of consolidation for a Cheltenham hero.
Uncompromising conditions were tamed over the Grand National fences in the Randox Health Foxhunters' Chase by Tabitha Worsley on Kelly Morgan's veteran Top Wood (14-1).