Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated a glorious treble in Liverpool on Thursday as horses he owns won the first three races on day one of the Grand National Festival at Aintree.
And the former Manchester United boss mischievously conceded his successes were made even sweeter because they were achieved on Merseyside.
Ferguson, 79, was on the winner’s podium after Protektorat won the Manifesto Novices’ Steeplechase, Monmiral the Doom Bar Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle and Clan Des Obeaux the feature Betway Bowl. All three are Grade One races, the highest level in racing.
Winning owner Sir Alex Ferguson watches his horse Protektorat win the opening race of the Aintree Grand National meeting – and the ex-Man United boss was soon celebrating a treble
With a nod in the direction of Anfield, Ferguson said: ‘It’s been fantastic, great. Winning is the name of the game. Winning on Merseyside, they will all be happy over there. That’s the best day I’ve had in my time in racing, which is about 20 years or so.’
Asked if he ever offered his trainers advice, Ferguson said: ‘I don’t interfere with the horses at all — that’s the trainer’s job. I didn’t want anyone interfering with my job.’
Ferguson, who shares ownership of all the horses with a combination of Paul Barber, John Hales and Ged Mason, will be back at Aintree on Saturday as a part owner of Paul Nicholls-trained Grand National runner Give Me A Copper.
Protektorak, ridden by Harry Skelton, won the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices Chase
Harry Cobden’s mount is a 40-1 shot and Ferguson admitted he was realistic about his chances of another away win in Liverpool.
He added: ‘Give Me A Copper is fresh and Paul has readied him for the race but the favourite (Cloth Cap), his performance last time was fantastic.
‘But if he gets into a rhythm he will enjoy himself and if he takes to the fences we will see where he takes us. I will definitely be coming on Saturday.’
Nicholls-trained Monmiral, who is now unbeaten in four hurdles in Britain since being purchased in France, and Protektorat, who had had a breathing operation since his last run and surprised trainer Dan Skelton by the authority of his three-and-three-quarter-length win, are part of the Ferguson youth team and ones for the future.
But Clan Des Obeaux, who had not won since landing the 2019 King George VI Chase, looked reinvigorated wearing cheekpieces for the first time and racing more prominently than usual as he beat Clondaw Castle 26 lengths with Native River 18 lengths further back in third.
Ferguson was one of the lucky ones allowed into Aintree for the first day of the meeting
Ferguson added: ‘It was a fresh approach with the cheekpieces on. We ran him right up the front and we gave him plenty of space to run in. I think that all worked. He was the best horse in the race anyway.’
Nicholls said: ‘I think we’ve probably worked out how to ride him right.’
The trainer did not rule out another run for Clan Des Obeaux this season. He added: ‘He is in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, for which he doesn’t get a penalty, and I always thought that race would suit him.
‘He might go there or the Punchestown Festival. That might be a worth a look if he comes out of this well.’
In reality the race looked like it fell apart a little. Back in fourth was dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll who plugged on after struggling throughout the second circuit to be beaten 92 lengths. His jockey Jack Kennedy said: ‘He was completely outclassed and out of his comfort zone the whole way.’
Fergie was soon celebrating a Double on Merseyside as Harry Cobden won on Monmiral
The Aintree stewards enquired into the run of Tiger Roll, reporting he appeared to be tenderly handled during the race.
The explanations of Kennedy and trainer Denise Foster, who was spoken to by phone, were noted but no further action was taken.
His owner Michael O’Leary, who decided not to run Tiger Roll in tomorrow’s Grand National because he had been allotted too much weight, will no doubt see the run as vindication of his claim.
However, given Tiger Roll is a transformed performer in Cross Country races, as he once again proved at Cheltenham last month, and over the National’s unique fences, it is unlikely the handicapper will take the run literally if Tiger Roll is entered in the 2022 National as a 12-year-old.
Harry Cobden celebrates on Clan des Obeaux after winning the Betway Bowl Chase
Ireland’s challenge for this meeting is far less substantial than the numbers they threw at the Cheltenham Festival which they dominated.
But they did come away with two wins. Abacadabras, a faller in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, travelled sweetly before winning the Aintree Hurdle by a length and a quarter from Buzz for Kennedy and trainer Foster.
The Mares’ Bumper was won by Me Too Please, trained by Arthur Moore and ridden by Rachael Blackmore.