Clan Des Obeaux won the Grade One Betway Bowl Chase for a second consecutive year to hand part-owner and former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson a third win in the race. Ferguson also part-owned 2010 winner What A Friend.
The 13-2 chance, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden, left Gordon Elliott’s Conflated a length behind in second and the 2019 winner of the race, Kemboy in third.
Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said: “He was trained for today not Newbury and he has improved from then and he improved in his coat. He looked great today and I thought the blinkers made a difference on Saturday when we worked him. That was ideal. It just sharpened him up so much (the blinkers).
“He has got a little bit idle and he pricked his ears just before the line. He is 10 and he when they are getting on a bit they just save a little bit. When they get older they know the routine and they get a little bit lazy and a bit harder to get right.
“I wasn’t too despondent at Newbury. Harry (Cobden) was but there were only two aims - here and Punchestown and he always come good in the spring. I’m delighted as some of ours haven’t been running as I would have liked them to and I’ve been pulling my hair out since Christmas, to be honest with you.
“To get him back looking like that was a fantastic team effort so I’m thrilled. He will definitely go to Punchestown now as that was always the plan and we will leave them (blinkers) on.
“He has had some hard battles over the years particularly at Punchestown but he won so well around here last year you wonder if they are going to show that form again but the blinkers have just brought that out. He loves is around here. He got a great ride and jumped brilliantly.
“It was all perfect. He was always going to hang on. Harry will be chuffed with that as that is a big boost for us today. It is a help (towards the trainers’ championship) getting winners like that.
“The King George was a bit frustrating but he is always better in the spring and I’ve trained him for this race. I’m absolutely thrilled. After he jumped two he was on it today and he was always in a nice position.”
Winning jockey Harry Cobden said: “That was fantastic. I thought today was the day to cash in on him in first-time blinkers. He jumped brilliantly and won really nicely. I probably went a bit too soon on him, but we got the job done.
“He was travelling well and his jumping was class - back to when he’s good, you know, and the last couple of times I’ve ridden him it hasn’t been quite like that, but today he was back. He’s beaten some good horses and I’m delighted.
“After Newbury I was disappointed - gutted - but I knew we’d get him back, and I knew we needed the blinkers, because I felt the effect of cheekpieces was beginning to wear off, and he was probably getting a bit idle and behind the bridle.
“He was a different horse today. I’ve always said he wanted them, it’s just taken a while to get them on. Paul said last night, ‘If I’d trained him to be 100% at Newbury, he wasn’t going to be 100% at Aintree’, so… I know it would have been nice to win there, but it’s better to win here.
“Up to Christmas the season was fantastic, and then the wheels fell off. I’m not sure why, but it’s great to finish on a good note.”
Winning part-owner Sir Alex Ferguson said: “It was very good, aye, excellent. We did like him before the race but we couldn’t believe the price he went out to. Anyway, it was a fantastic performance, well done …That’s three times we’ve won it (the Betway Bowl).
“It’s fantastic – I think in the King George the ground was too heavy for him. But he’s always been a good horse, we’ve won this three times now so we’re delighted, he’s won an Irish Gold Cup as well which was a great day.
“It’s always good to win here on Merseyside, but we’re not used to it!”
Clan Des Obeaux beat another of his horses in the same race, Protektorat, trained by Dan Skelton who also ran three weeks ago in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
And Ferguson added: “Protektorat was a worthy favourite but maybe the Gold Cup just taken a bit out of him. It was great for Paul (Nicholls, trainer) to produce him (Clan Des Obeaux) with that level of fitness and preparation - it was good.
“As soon as he took over the lead I thought he was a certainty but you are always hoping just jump the last. I thought the finish line was getting further away but he just hung on. We’ve had a great time with him.
“Racing is a part of my life now that is more than football now. I’ve a few horses with Ged (Mason) and John Hales and we got great enjoyment last year winning three Grade Ones here (in a row) and I don’t think that has ever been done here.
“I never won three in a row at Anfield that is for sure! I think the blinkers on were a help. That is what good trainers can do they try things and he tried them (blinkers) and it worked.
“I need to speak to Paul about the Grand National. He is 10 years-old and next year he will be 11 and it is probably the one thing to try at his age. At 11 years of age he might get a good weight but I don’t know. We are having great fun with him now having won this twice in a row so I’m not too worried where he goes now. He has been the most successful horse I’ve had.
“I think Protektorat has got great potential and I think he is Dan’s best horse. His performance in the Gold Cup at seven years of age gives a good chance of a right go next year. I know the winner A Plus Tard was unbelievable and I don’t think anyone expected him to be as good as that. Our horse will be a year older and possibly he could be a lot closer.”
Gordon Elliott, trainer of second placed Conflated, said: “He ran well and we’ve no excuses. He won’t go again as he likes going left-handed. Next season he’ll come back for all these same sort of races.”
Willie Mullins, trainer of the third placed Kemboy (5-1), said: “I’m happy enough. He jumped a little bit right and Paul (Townend, jockey) thought the rain getting into the ground didn’t help but otherwise he ran a great race.
“We’ll see where we go from here, either Punchestown or Sandown depending on how things work out! There’s another run in him and it will probably be at Punchestown but we’ll see.”
Kemboy’s jockey, Paul Townend, said: “He ran well. He jumped a bit right but he ran well.”
Harry Skelton, rider of fourth placed Protektorat (fourth), said: “He’s run well. After jumping three out he was feeling the effects of the Gold Cup, but you don’t know that until you come here.
“He came here as favourite and he’d only had three runs, but we are happy with him. He’s run very well, and the winner was great.”