Protektorat vs Clan Des Obeaux in Aintree Betway Bowl battle

A competitive Betway Bowl is the centrepiece on day one of the Aintree Grand National Festival with Protektorat vs Clan Des Obeaux just one of the potential duels in a talent packed Grade 1.

Dan Skelton's Protektorat is an Aintree winner and came third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and everything is pointing towards a strong showing in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl on Thursday, April 7.

However, Paul Nicholls aims to ensure the Skeltons don't have it their own way as he sends Clan Des Obeaux, himself a winner on Merseyside to face off with Protektorat.

Skelton feels that Protektorat has everything needed to take the Betway Bowl after 25 a lengths romp in the the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December and then going on to a smart third in the Gold Cup

Skelton said: "It was great run in the Gold Cup. We are very proud of him. There are only four Grade Ones over three miles in the UK, so you have to to try and go if you can.

"I'm happy with him. He's healthy, he's fit and he's sound. He's come out of Cheltenham well. Cheltenham is only just behind him, but that is what it is, you can't change the dates.

"But it is a decent race and no-one has shirked it. We will just have to go and give it our best shot.

"He is two from two at Aintree and his most recent run is a standard-setter for recent form, but it is a hot race - there is no point pretending it is not. It is a good race."

In a twist of fate, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has shares in both Protektorat and Clan Des Obeaux so should get a run for his money whatever happens.

Trainer Nicholls has kept most of his big guns fresh for Aintree and the Don of Ditcheat suggests his ten-year-old can challenge in the Betway Bowl if any of the old talent is shown.

Nicholls told Betfair: "Clan hasn't been at his best yet this season, but still ran well in the King George. I was then a little disappointed with him at Newbury when our horses were a bit out of form.

"He is not getting any younger, but he's bouncing at the moment and looks great in his coat. We worked him in blinkers on Saturday to sharpen him up and he will wear them in a race for the first time on Thursday.

"I'm hopeful of another big run back at a track we know he likes."

In a race packed with class, Colin Tizzard's Eldorado Allen will provide opposition and the trainer's son Joe, due to take over from his father at the end of the month, is hoping that the eight-year-old can also regain some form.

Tizzard said: "It was a good, strong run in the Ryanair. We knew what we were taking on in Allaho, so we were really chuffed with him.

"A flat three miles at Aintree, similar to Newbury, would suit him. Obviously Protektorat ran a blinder in the Gold Cup and he is the one to beat, but we have beaten Royale Pagaille and Clan Des Obeaux at Newbury.

"He seems to have come out of Cheltenham really well, so we are hoping he can run another big race.

"You have to take them on and have a go. He deserves to be in it and he is not a back number in it, either."

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