Twenty-two years after his Manchester United side secured a historic treble in the Champions League final, Sir Alex Ferguson was at Aintree on Thursday to see three of his horses pull off a similar feat with Grade One victories on the first afternoon of the Grand National meeting.
Ferguson’s white, red and blue colours were aboard the first three winners of the day – Protektorat, Monmiral and Clan Des Obeaux – rewarding backers of the treble at just under 63-1. It was clearly the former United manager’s lucky day as Protektorat took charge of the Manifesto Novice Chase just as the well-fancied Hitman, also running in Ferguson’s colours, started to fade in the closing stages after leading between the final two fences
Monmiral (10-11) and Clan Des Obeaux (5-2) both set off as favourites for the Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle and Betway Bowl respectively, and had little trouble justifying their odds. Clan Des Obeaux was briefly challenged by runner-up Clondaw Castle into the straight but then simply surged even further clear for victory with Native River a distant third and Tiger Roll only fourth.
“He was fresh [after missing the Cheltenham Festival] and with the cheekpieces on [for the first time], that made a difference,” Ferguson said. “Harry [Cobden] rode him really positively out there in front, and he was fantastic.”
All three winners look set for successful campaigns next season, with Clan Des Obeaux likely to return to Kempton Park on Boxing Day for the King George VI Chase, a race he won in both 2018 and 2019. Monmiral has the option of switching to fences with the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March as a possible aim, while Protektorat also has “a big, big future” according to his trainer, Dan Skelton.
“I didn’t expect that to happen,” Skelton said. “I said to the owners, who also had Hitman in the race, that today was a short-term plan to get a long-term result for next season.”