Owner Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated winning the first three races on day one of the Randox Grand National Festival - then hailed it as “the best day I’ve had in my time in racing”.
The former football manager watched Clan Des Obeaux ease to victory in the Betway Bowl, after Monmiral and Protektorat had sealed victories earlier in the day to give him a Grade One hat-trick in little over an hour.
It was Ferguson’s first treble on Merseyside since 2007, when his Manchester United side defeated Everton 4-2 in the April and 1-0 in the September – both at Goodison Park - and then Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield in the December.
Clan Des Obeaux has now cemented his place as Ferguson’s best ever Jumps horse, with two Ladbrokes King George victories to his name and now a third Grade One win in the Betway Bowl.
Ferguson owned Rock of Gibraltar, who won 10 of his 13 starts in 2001 and 2002, including the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Irish Guineas, St James’s Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes and Prix du Moulin.
However, the Old Trafford legend described winning the first three races at Aintree today as his best day in the sport.
Ferguson, who owns Clan Des Obeaux with Ged Mason and Paul Barber, said: “That’s the best day I’ve had in my time in racing, which is about 20 years or so.
“It is different to when I was managing my football teams - I was in control of what was going to happen on the pitch, but I’m not in control of that (on the racetrack) as the trainer does all of that and as an owner you hope it goes well. You do get the same excitement when you win big races like that as it does get you very excited.”
Speaking about Clan Des Obeaux’s performance, Ferguson added: “It was a fresh approach with the cheekpieces on. He had a three month rest and we ran him right up the front and we gave him plenty of space to run in and I think that all worked. I think he was the best horse in the race anyway.
“Horses like Native River had a hard Gold Cup so it was an advantage (coming here fresh). It’s great, winning is the name of the game. Winning on Merseyside, they will all be happy!”
Ferguson also has a runner in Saturday’s Randox Grand National and he added: “Give Me A Copper is fresh but the favourite (Cloth Cap), his performance last time was fantastic. 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.”
Trainer Paul Nicholls added: “I think we’ve probably worked out how to ride him right! When he won his King George, he was nearly well in front turning in and galloped on strongly, so I said to Harry [Cobden] today, ‘either get a lead of something like Native River, or be very, very handy’.
“Cheekpieces, as I have always thought, focused his mind, he jumped brilliantly and did that well - very good performance.
“I think when he’s come here before, he’s been to Cheltenham and had two hard races in the Gold Cup. The best thing we did was not take him there. He doesn’t like it and being a fresh horse here makes a big difference. It’s hard to do both, and today was always the plan.
“You look back and perhaps he was a little bit disappointing at Newbury but he did give 6lb to a good horse. That woke us up a bit, thinking we were getting it wrong with the tactics, and today was the right way to ride him, and it’s what we’ll do from now on.
“The thing is, as I said to Mr Barber the other evening, he’s been running since he was three, has run in all those King Georges and had some really hard races, and stayed sound. The reason they stay sound is that they actually tend to look after themselves a little bit, and something like cheekpieces just gives them that extra bit of focus, and I think just letting him bowl along suits him really well.
“Obviously the King George will be his number one aim next season, and back here, and maybe the Denman Chase. The Betfair Chase would be possible if the ground is decent - the CHarlie Hall might suit him as well.
“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 Punchestown. It might be a worth a look if he comes out of this well. He’d carry top weight at Sandown but he’s a different class of horse and he won’t get a penalty because he’s top weight - it could be an interesting race. And he hasn’t done a lot this season and he’s in the form of his life, so it’s worth considering.
“It’s amazing that these owners have had such a good day. They invest heavily in the sport and have bought some nice horses and been patient, and leave it to me and Dan [Skelton] to do what we think. And Mr and Mrs Barber as well, who are watching at home - it’s great for them.”
Tom George said of the runner-up Clondaw Castle: “That was a great run. He just got a little bit tired near the end, but he’s a work in progress and Jonny (Burke) said the ground was probably soft enough for him. It was only his second try over three miles and he’ll learn a lot from it.
“He’ll be more battle hardened next season and there should be plenty more fun to be had with him. We would have to be thinking about races like the King George.”
Jockey Jonathan Burke added: “He did everything right and I was thrilled with him. He just needs to be more battle-hardened at that distance in that grade.”
Back in third was 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River. His trainer Colin Tizzard said: “He finished third which was fine and we’re going to turn him out in the field tomorrow and think about what’s going to happen next year.
“We don’t want to carry on forever, but we’ll turn him out for the summer and see where we are. On really good ground today he was one-paced and we don’t want to do anything that’s not right by him.”
Jockey Jonjo O’Neill said: “He’s a warrior. The ground is slightly quicker than he normally likes, but he still battled on to be third so even at his age he’s a trooper. He’s still got lots of love for the game and he’s just a pleasure to ride.”
Lisa O’Neill, representing the Cullentra House yard, said of fourth-placed Tiger Roll: “He’s come home safe and sound and that’s the main thing. He’s obviously quite outclassed in that category of a race, so we’ll take him home and see how he is but he looks fine after and that’s the main thing. Potentially that’s it for him this season, but we’ll wait and see what Gigginstown want to do.”
Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f
1 Clan Des Obeaux – Paul Nicholls 9-11-07 Harry Cobden 5/2F
2 Clondaw Castle – Tom George 9-11-07 Jonathan Burke 13/2
3 Native River – Colin Tizzard 11-11-07 Jonjo O’Neill Jr 4/1
Distances: 26l, 18l, 48l
Time: 6m 25.94s