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Monmiral masters Aintree rivals to stay unbeaten

Monmiral maintained his unbeaten record over jumps with a convincing victory in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding oozed class in the hands of Harry Cobden and proved connections right for bypassing the Cheltenham Festival.

Monmiral was always travelling sweetly in third place behind Fiveandtwenty and Paros in the early stages, until he took closer order from three out.

Main market rival Adagio made his move, but a mistake at the final flight cost the Triumph Hurdle runner-up any chance he had and Monmiral scooted away to score by seven an a half lengths.

The victory gave the ownership that includes Sir Alex Ferguson, John Hales and Ged Mason a quick Grade One double following Protektorat’s win in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

Monmiral was cut to 25-1 from 40-1 for the Champion Hurdle and to 20-1 from 40-1 for the Arkle Trophy with Paddy Power and Betfair. Coral also went 20-1 for the Arkle.

Nicholls said: “The owners weren’t keen on Cheltenham. Although usually the Triumph is a cavalry charge and this year there weren’t many runners. This is a lovely race to win and there’s lots to look forward to.

“It has to be the best juvenile performance by a horse this side of the (Irish) sea.

“It will be hard to go novice chasing next season as a five-year-old, you don’t get as much of an allowance as you used to.

“It might be nice to think about the Fighting Fifth, it’s something to think about over the summer. A bit of time wouldn’t hurt this lad. There’s no panic to make a decision. If he won at Newcastle then we know what route to go down.”

Nicholls targets Aintree for Monmiral

Leading juvenile hurdler Monmiral is already earmarked for Aintree in the spring, and will not even be entered in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Paul Nicholls’ French import, who numbers Sir Alex Ferguson among his owners with Ged Mason and John and Lisa Hales, scored with ease on his British debut at Exeter.

He was then upped in class for the Grade Two Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster, where he was an even more impressive winner.

However, Nicholls views him as an embryonic chaser of the future – and Aintree’s Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle is by far this season’s preferred target.

“Monmiral goes to Haydock for the Victor Ludorum next, then on to Aintree,” said the champion trainer.

“He won’t even have an entry in the Triumph Hurdle.

“John Hales and the other guys are not interested in the Triumph Hurdle – they are interested in chasing.

“All those good horses I’ve had like Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux have finished down the field in the Triumph Hurdle – but they weren’t Triumph horses, and he is the same.”

Nicholls is confident Liverpool will suit Monmiral much better.

“The race at Aintree is worth a lot, and it will be a nice track for him,” he added.

“If you are going to be serious about chasing in the future, you have to mind him a bit. He wasn’t purchased for a Triumph Hurdle.”

Monmiral extends winning run with Summit strike

Monmiral staked a claim for Cheltenham Festival honours when maintaining his unbeaten record in the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster.

The French import was slashed to 12-1 from 25-1 for the Triumph Hurdle with Betfair and Paddy Power after adding to an Auteuil success when with Francois Nicolle and a win at Exeter for his new trainer Paul Nicholls.

Monmiral travelled like a 1-2 shot should throughout the extended two-mile journey as Gold Desert made a bold bid to lead all the way.

The race looked over when Monmiral went to the front at the third-last flight, but he gave Gold Desert another chance when fluffing the penultimate obstacle.

However, Monmiral was fluent at the last and drew away on the flat to score by 11 lengths in the hands of Sean Bowen and lift the Grade Two spoils. Glorious Zoff was 22 lengths away in third place.

Nicholls said: “He went to Exeter and won his prep for that very well. He will have one run before the spring, either here or possibly at Haydock and then he will go to either Cheltenham or Aintree.

“The idea is then look after him as he will be a chaser in the future.

“He made a bit of a mess at the second last, but he soon picked up and took off again which was good to see.

“Sir Alex (Ferguson, part owner) was up there to watch it and he nearly had two winners with Give Me A Copper, who has run well in defeat, so he has had a good day up there.”

Bowen added: “He’s a lovely horse. He travelled great. He was probably in front too soon.

“He was just travelling and winging hurdles.

“He’ll be better with a lead for longer, but I like him a lot.

“He wasn’t great at the second last, but he was just having a look round in front and he was good at the last.

“He’ll keep improving. He’s a very nice young horse.”

Bowen, who had fallen from Billingsley earlier on the card, did not take up his mount, Give Me A Copper, in the concluding bet365 Handicap Chase.

He was signed off by the racecourse medical officer and replaced by amateur rider Angus Cheleda.