Get all the news from day one of the Grand National meeting at Aintree where Clan Des Obeaux won the Betway Bowl in fine style.
Clan Des Obeaux (5/2 fav) produced a flawless round of steeplechasing when running out a brilliant winner of the Betway Bowl for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden.
At the end of a season that has seen the dual King George hero hit the crossbar on numerous occasions, he was right back to his best on Merseyside as he slammed Clondaw Castle and Native River by 26 and 18 lengths respectively.
The winner deserves extra credit for sitting close to strong early fractions set by Mister Fisher and that pair were still in pole position until the former crashed out on the final circuit, leaving Clan Des Obeaux in the lead a long way from home.
Though Clondaw Castle loomed up as a big danger turning in, Cobden always cut a confident figure and two more pinpoint leaps at the final two fences finished race as a contest before Clan Des Obeaux stretched handsomely clear in the closing stages.
Further back in the field, there was a brave performance from two-time Grand National hero Tiger Roll who was taken off his feet early but stuck to his task admirably to eventually come home in fourth.
Winning Trainer: P F Nicholls | Winning Jockey: H Cobden
Paul Nicholls said: “When he’s been here before he’s had two hard races in the Gold Cup so the best thing we did was not take him there (Cheltenham), it makes such a big difference as it’s hard to do both.
“Perhaps he was disappointing at Newbury, but he did give 6lb to a good horse. It woke us up though as we realised we were probably getting the tactics wrong. We know to be positive on him now.
“Obviously next season the King George will be his number one aim, then back here and I’d like to go for the Denman again. If the ground is decent the Betfair at Haydock is a nice race for him – as is the Charlie Hall.”
He added: “He’s actually in the Bet365 Chase at Sandown and he doesn’t get a penalty, so that could be interesting. I’ve always thought that race would suit him. We didn’t put him in at Punchestown, but I did say if we could win this we could always supplement.”
Abacadabras (5/1) enjoyed his big day in the sun when coming out on top in a dramatic running of the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
Second in last season's running of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the Irish raider has been called plenty of names in the past and was a faller when last sighted in the Champion Hurdle.
However, he did nothing wrong here and found plenty for pressure when taking over from Buveur d'Air after the last, running all the way to the line to deny the fast finish of Value Bet selection Buzz.
Jason The Militant cut out the early running but when he crashed out when still in front, it was left to McFabulous and dual champion hurdler Buveur d'Air to take up the running and the latter – very much still on the comeback trail after injury – ran a terrific race in defeat and it was only at the death when he had cried enough.
When Abacadabras bundled his way over the final flight, he picked up generously to put distance between himself and the chasing pack, but Buzz found his second wind up the run-in and was cutting back the deficit with every stride, only going down by a length and a quarter at the line.
In the end, outsider Millers Bank picked up place money with Buveur d'Air eventually fading into fourth.
Winning Trainer: D Foster | Winning Jockey: J Kennedy
Gigginstown House Stud racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “We thought he’d go well at Cheltenham, but he was unlucky there.
“There was no question he stayed the (two-and-a-half-mile) trip. He can idle in front and he’s been called some names in the past, but if you go through his form this season he’s had excuses.
“He needed the run the first day, he won nicely next time, he scoped badly at Leopardstown over Christmas then the ground was too heavy in the Irish Champion.
“It was unfortunate what happened at Cheltenham, but he was very good today. Jack was very good on him and I’m delighted for all at Cullentra.
“We actually thought he was a little unlucky against Shishkin as a novice, we were actually coming back at him at the line (in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle).”
Looking to the future, O’Leary added: “Hopefully he’ll come home with a smile on his face and there’s a chance he could go to Punchestown.
“I’d imagine he’ll stay hurdling next season, but we’ll have a chat about that later on.”
Protektorat bounced back to winning form for Dan and Harry Skelton in the opening Grade One SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree.
The six-year-old, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson who has a Grand National hopeful in Give Me A Copper, looked a bright prospect when winning easily at Cheltenham earlier in the season but was a remote second at Kelso last time.
Wind surgery and a first-time tongue-tie suggested Skelton had identified the problem and he bounced right back to his best here, staying on well after the last to deny The Shunter and Hitman.
On a day when owners were allowed back on the course, The Shunter was running in his new green and gold JP McManus silks - but a few fencing mistakes cost him.
Hitman looked the likely winner for Paul Nicholls for much of the closing stages as he travelled well on the front end, but the closers got to him on the long run-in so he had to settle for third.
Winning Trainer: D Skelton | Winning Jockey: H Skelton
Trainer Dan Skelton told ITV: “I have to say that is a bit of a shock for him to win.
“Going off his autumn form, I would say ‘yes, he could win this’ – but it’s a long way back for any horse from what happened (last time out) at Kelso.
“He got beaten at a short price – and he was beaten after two jumps that day.
“We did his soft palate, put a tongue strap on and took the hood off – everything had to change.
“If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll only get the same result.
“You have to change things up – perhaps he’s getting a little more experienced and relaxing a little better.”
Protektorat demonstrated that the changes had worked.
“Ultimately he’s done it at a very high level,” added his trainer.
“The form’s very solid today, and we’re very proud of him.
“He must be a tough horse to have the season that he’s had … fair play, you’ve got take your hat off to the horse.”
Monmiral struck for the same ownership as the Protektorat team as Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason and John and Lisa Hales landed a quick Grade One double at Aintree.
This one was trained by Paul Nicholls and though he wasn't fluent at all of his hurdles, he was much better than Adagio at the last and that was a key moment in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.
Just before the final flight Adagio, runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle, loomed up travelling well, but he fluffed his lines, handing the initiative to the 10/11 favourite who ran on well to the line for a seven and a half length success under Harry Cobden.
The winner looks every inch a chaser and Paddy Power cut him to 20/1 from 40s in their Sporting Life Arkle market for the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.
Winning Trainer: P F Nicholls | Winning Jockey: H Cobden
Harry Cobden was very impressed by Monmiral.
“He’s a proper horse – he travelled very well and jumped great,” said the winning jockey.
“He’s probably beaten the best English juvenile, hasn’t he? So he’s top class.
“He had loads in the tank. He’s a proper Grade One horse – as good a juvenile as I’ve ever sat on.”
As for odds of 25/1 offered by Paddy Power for next year’s Champion Hurdle, Cobden said: “I’d rather see him jump a fence!”
There was a shock in the Rose Paterson Randox Foxhunters' Open Hunters' Chase as Cousin Pascal (66/1) prevailed in a thrilling finish for trainer Joe O'Shea.
At the end of an incident-packed contest which saw hot-favourite Bilaway struggle for fluency throughout, there were four runners virtually in line approaching the elbow.
At that stage, Latenightpass and Cat Tiger had been trading blows for some time, but Cousin Pascal was was still in there swinging himself under a strong ride from James King and having dourly edged into the lead inside the final furlong, the nine-year-old kept finding for pressure and eventually went on to score by two and a half lengths.
Having looked the winner for much the race, Cat Tiger had to settle for third ahead of 200/1 chance Clondaw Westie, while Bilaway finally put his best foot forward when flashing home for fifth.
Winning Trainer: J O'Shea | Winning Jockey: J King
James King said afterwards: “I’ve been lucky to ride a horse which suits the course, and an excellent training performance from Joe and his team.
"They’ve improved the horse no end since they got him at the beginning of the season so all credit to him.
“I couldn’t believe the start I got, I got out of the gate sharp and then me and Jack Andrews sat upsides and were really able to set it up down the back straight.
"I just couldn’t believe how well I was going, I got a bit tight coming into the back straight but that almost suited me, I could fill him up and go again.
“Obviously it was very disappointing to miss Cheltenham (due to ban on amateur riders), it was great that we can get back here and get racing.
"I didn’t appreciate the first time I won the race, but I’ll definitely appreciate it now.”
Editeur Du Gite ran his rivals into the ground with a bold front-running performance to win the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase.
Gary Moore’s seven-year-old, ridden by his son Josh, put in good round of jumping apart from the last, where he he was slow, but he recovered and galloped all the way to the line.
Sully D’Oc Aa and Dostal Phil, both owned by JP McManus, tried to close but the post came in time for the 9/1 winner, who was wearing the colours of 2014 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy.
Winning Trainer: G Moore | Winning Jockey: J Moore
Josh Moore said: “We’ve had to be patient with him, but it’s starting to pay off now.
“Last season ended early and we never got to run him much, so this season he was quite inexperienced when we started off and didn’t really see out his races that strongly. He’s starting to do that a lot better now.
“His strong point is his jumping, but he is a fast horse. You could work him with any Flat horse at home and you’d feel disappointed about them, but that said, his jumping gives him a breather and helps him through a race.
“He certainly gets horses under pressure in the middle of the race and I think this better ground helps massively.
“He’s got to progress again, but the way he jumps and travels will suit in a higher grade, so hopefully he might end up there.”
Rachael Blackmore, leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival got off the mark at Aintree’s big meeting with victory on Me Too Please in the Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
She had the Arthur Moore-trained five-year-old close to the pace set by Mansoline and Swincombe Fleat before setting sail for home in he straight.
Once in front, Me Too Please (14/1) showed her inexperience by veering over to the far side but Blackmore kept the partnership intact.
They crossed the line a length and a half to the good over Elle Est Belle, with Miss Lamb third in the Grade Two contest.
The Pam Sly-trained Eileendover was sent off the evens favourite but she never looked like adding to her three previous victories and was a never-threatening fourth.
Winning Trainer: A L T Moore | Winning Jockey: R Blackmore
Rachael Blackmore said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to ride a big winner like this for Arthur, he was very good to me in my early days when I was in college.
“He said she was in very good form at home and he was very happy with her coming over. It looked a very hot race on paper, but he was happy with her and we got a lovely passage through the race.
"He did tell me to try not to get down the rail, and of course I was down the rail, but it when it works out, it’s great.
“She just showed a bit of greenness when the rail went away, but she galloped all the way to the line and it was a very good performance.”