The National Times - Ferguson bowled over by Clan des Obeaux Aintree repeat victory

Ferguson bowled over by Clan des Obeaux Aintree repeat victory

Ferguson bowled over by Clan des Obeaux Aintree repeat victory
Ferguson bowled over by Clan des Obeaux Aintree repeat victory

Alex Ferguson enjoyed a few comebacks in his time as Manchester United manager and his star jumper Clan des Obeaux did the same, rebounding from a disappointing run to take the Bowl Chase on the first day of the Grand National Festival on Thursday.

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Clan des Obeaux slugged it out to win the Grade One race for a second successive time -- breaking £1 million ($1.3 million) in prizemoney.

"We could not believe the price (13/2)!" beamed Ferguson, who is a part owner of the winner.

"That was a fantastic performance. He is such a good horse and brave too as can be attested to by two King George VI's, two of these and a Punchestown Gold Cup.

"It is always good to win here (Aintree). We are not used to it!" added Ferguson, drily alluding to a hat-trick of winners he and his co-owners had on the same day at Aintree last year.

Clan des Obeaux just held on as the Gordon Elliott-trained Conflated finished like a train.

Elliott has had a miserable time of late, the Irish trainer recording just one winner in his last 70-plus runners and his luck was out all Thursday.

His fancied Zanahiyr came a cropper at the final obstacle in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle leaving 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante to coast home to victory under Aidan Coleman.

- 'That was fun' -

"She is arguably in her best form ever," said Coleman, who rides the strongly fancied Snow Leopardess in Saturday's Grand National.

"What a training performance by Nicky Henderson to get her back to this level.

"I am a very lucky man she is just another queen I have ridden."

Elliott had thought his luck had returned in the Grade One Juvenile Hurdle but once again the fates dictated otherwise.

Knight Salute and Elliott's runner Pied Piper fought out a thrilling finish after the latter had looked likely to live up to his name by leading the rest home.

Instead the two could not be separated and it was judged a dead heat.

However, more drama followed as the stewards held an enquiry.

Knight Salute's jockey Paddy Brennan said he felt there had been no interference from Pied Piper's rider Davy Russell, but the stewards thought otherwise and relegated Pied Piper to second giving Knight Salute's trainer Milton Harris his first Grade One winner.

Harris, who found his vocation after working on cruise liners for 10 years, may have spent just £14,000 on Knight Salute -- compared to the £200,000 Pied Piper cost -- said he would have preferred to have won without an enquiry.

"I dont play sport for that," said Harris, who has had a breakthrough season with over 50 winners.

"However, those are the rules. I just thought it was a good battle and it is a shame to win like that.

"Still, look we are better off than the people in Ukraine, are we not?"

Harris was not the only trainer to record his maiden top level success as the Alex Hales-trained Millers Bank won the opening Novices Chase which was also the handler's first win at Aintree in 23 attempts.

"That was fun," said Hales.

"It is quite emotional. It is wonderful really. It has taken a long time to get here."

Gina Andrews also exorcised an Aintree demon, celebrating wildly after riding Latenightpass -- trained by her husband Tom Ellis -- to victory in the amateurs Grand National.

"He never missed a beat! I love riding round here and I cannot believe it has happened," said Andrews, who finished second on Latenightpass in the 2021 Foxhunters.

She has a way to go to equal fellow amateur Sam Waley-Cohen's six wins over the National fences. The latter announced he will retire after his ride on Noble Yeats in Saturday's race.