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Henderson Strikes First On Ladies Day With Rather Be

Nicky Henderson’s bid to wrest the Jump trainers’ title from current champion Paul Nicholls was given another boost when he saddled the first and fourth in the opening race at Aintree on Ladies Day.

Henderson’s winner in the 22-runner Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle was the 10/1 shot Rather Be, who cruised into the home straight under Jeremiah McGrath, and then clung on in a tight battle after the final hurdle. He won by half a length and the same from Dream Berry (8/1 co-fav) and Geordie Des Champs (10/1), with the Henderson-trained Thomas Campbell (8/1 co-fav) a further nine lengths back in fourth. Sumkindofking was the unplaced other 8/1 co-favourite.

Henderson, who trains Rather Be for Matt and Lauren Morgan, said: “It’s a family we know well [he also trains half-brother Sign Of A Victory] and we’ve had a lot of fun with all of them. He did deserve that, because he was brought down early on at Cheltenham [in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle] – I couldn’t split him and Thomas Campbell at Cheltenham and I couldn’t do it today either.

“They finished first and fourth and for Matt [Morgan] it’s great, because it’s a good consolation prize. It was annoying [to see Rather Be brought down] at the time, but it’s okay today.”

Morgan said: “It’s fantastic to have a winner at Aintree. Things happen for a reason, and we were so disappointed at Cheltenham because we were so confident going there. He didn’t have a race and he was as fresh as paint today and that helped.

“Jerry [McGrath] said that wherever he wanted to put him he could go there, and that’s what you need around here. You need to travel in a race like this.”

1.40pm Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f

1 RATHER BE (Matt & Laura Morgan) Nicky Henderson 6-11-02 Jeremiah McGrath 10/1
2 Dream Berry (J P McManus) Jonjo O’Neill 6-10-13 Barry Geraghty 8/1 Co Fav
3 Geordie Des Champs (J P McManus) Rebecca Curtis 6-10-12 Jonathan Moore (3) 12/1
4 Thomas Campbell (Mrs Van Geest & Mrs Kelvin-Hughes) Nicky Henderson 5-11-05 Nico de Boinville 8/1 Co Fav

8/1 Co Fav – Sumkindofthing

Distances: ½, ½, 9, ¾
Tote Win: £10.10
Places: £2.80, £2.60, £3.50, £2.50
Exacta: £93.4