Sir Alex Ferguson was celebrating on Merseyside for the second year running on Thursday as Clan Des Obeaux, the best horse he has owned in nearly 25 years in racing, won the Betway Bowl on the opening day of the meeting from the Grand National to Aintree.
The former Manchester United manager had an interest in two runners in the race, and pre-money suggested Dan Skelton yard Protektorat was set to pick up the first freshman win of his career. Clan Des Obeaux have always traveled soft for Harry Cobden, however, on a track that plays to his strengths, and despite idling during the run-in he came home a length behind the Irish Gold Cup winner , Conflated.
“We couldn’t believe the price it went to,” Ferguson said. “The Protektorat was a worthy favourite, but maybe the Gold Cup [in which he finished third] had just taken a little from him.
“Running is more a part of my life than football now. I have a few with [co-owner] ed [Mason] and John Hales and we had a lot of fun last year winning three freshmen here. I’ve never won three times in a row at Anfield, that’s for sure. I need to talk to Paul [Nicholls] on the Grand National [next year]. He will be 11 years old and it is probably the only thing to try at his age.
There was a dramatic conclusion and aftermath to the 4YO Anniversary Hurdle earlier on the card as Knight Salute and Pied Piper were initially exhausted for first place in the freshman event, before Knight Salute received the loot in the steward’s room.
Stewards decided Pied Piper interfered with Knight Salute by jumping left on the final flight, although Paddy Brennan, his rider, told him he hadn’t lost momentum and felt a tied was “a very fair result”.
Davy Russell, meanwhile, told officials he started too early on the 10-11 favourite. “I knew racing was completely wrong,” Russell said, “but he traveled so well and my hands were tied.” Milton Harris, whose colorful life and career has included binge drinking with Cary Grant, dating Belinda Carlisle and seven years without a license after being declared bankrupt, was celebrating his first freshman success.
“It’s not easy for me because they had a good battle,” Harris said. “I was happy with the initial result but the stewards have work to do. “When he [Pied Piper] gave him a bump, which probably helped him. He is a tough warrior.
Sam Waley-Cohen, one of Britain’s top amateur riders for more than two decades, has said he will retire from the saddle after riding his father Robert’s Noble Yeats in Saturday’s Grand National.
Waley-Cohen, 39, was the first fancier to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup for 30 years when he rode Long Run to victory in 2011, and also won the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on the same horse in 2011 and 2012.