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Sir Alex Ferguson grabs another famous treble at Grand National meeting 

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.

“That’s the best day I’ve had in my time in racing, which is about 20 years or so,” Ferguson said.

“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 track] 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.”

Clan Des Obeaux missed the Cheltenham Festival to ensure that he was fresh for a race in which he had twice been beaten in the past. He also worse cheekpieces for the first time, to focus his attention on the task at hand.

“It was a fresh approach with the cheekpieces on,” Ferguson said. “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 [who finished third] had a hard Gold Cup so it was an advantage [to miss Cheltenham]. It’s great, winning is the name of the game. Winning on Merseyside, they will all be happy.”

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.”

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