Jerry McGrath is excited about getting back on board Santini in the William Hill Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on Saturday.
The 29-year-old will come in for the ride on last season’s Gold Cup runner-up in the Grade Two with his regular rider, Nico de Boinville, set to partner stablemate Altior in the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown on the same day.
It will be the first time McGrath has partnered Santini since steering him to victory in the Grade Two Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2018.
McGrath said: “I won a Grade Two on him at Cheltenham going back a few years ago when he was only just coming on the scene.
“He has been a very good horse since and I’m delighted to be getting the call up to ride him next weekend.
“The assistant trainer Billy Aprahamian sits on him most days as he takes a bit of knowing, but I will probably have a sit on him during the week or pop him over five or 10 fences to get a feel of him again.”
The Cheltenham Festival winning rider reports Santini to have taken a significant step forward from a recent racecourse gallop alongside stablemate Beware The Bear at Newbury.
He added: “He has come on a lot for that gallop. He has never been an exuberant horse.
“Even that day when I won on him at Cheltenham I was off the bridle on him a long way out.
“He probably looks like he makes hard work of it but he always has plenty in the locker.”
Santini has saved his best efforts for Cheltenham in the past, however McGrath feels a return to a flat track should not prove an inconvenience.
He added: “We need to start him off somewhere this season and we need to get a few more miles on the clock before he goes back to Cheltenham and try go one better in the Gold Cup.
“He is a hard enough horse to place, which is probably a good thing as he is so talented, but it will be a nice starting point for him.”
McGrath will also pick up the ride aboard multiple Grade One winner Might Bite, who will make his debut over the Grand National fences on the same card in the William Hill Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.
He said: “I’m very happy to be getting the call up for him.
“Everyone knows about Might Bite and he is kind of a famous horse even with non-racing people as they have heard about his characteristics along the way.
“He has been a great servant to Seven Barrows and he keeps everyone thinking. ”
It may be the first time Might Bite has tackled the famous Aintree fences, but McGrath is confident that the 11-year-old will take to them.
He added: “I suppose one thing he has in his favour is he jumped round the cross country fences at Cheltenham last season, which I know are different fences but it was a different aspect for him to concentrate on.
“He schooled over the Aintree style fences at Lambourn last week and he took to them well.
“If he takes to the fences we should have a good spin and he will be there or thereabouts.
Might Bite appeared to show plenty of enthusiasm on his return at Ascot, and with that effort fresh in the mind McGrath is optimistic about his chances of securing a first victory since landing the 2018 Betway Bowl at the track.
He added: “Nico said they were delighted that day at Ascot. He had a bit of room and he jumped very well.
“It will be a big advantage having that run under his belt. He is an older horse and you can only get him so fit at home.
“He will appreciate going back to two-miles-five and when your jumping comes under scrutiny he will shine. “
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