Funambule Sivola’s Marsh chance

Funambule Sivola is looking to add to what has already been a breakthrough season when he runs in the Marsh Chase – the big race at Aintree today.

Trained by Venetia Williams, the diminutive seven-year-old won the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury before outrunning his 40-1 odds to finish second to Energumene in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Bookmakers will not be so generous on Merseyside, with Funambule Sivola rated only 1lb lower officially than last year’s winner and favourite, Fakir D’oudairies.

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He is owned by the My Racing Manager Friends syndicate, run by Elli Morgan who admits she has been caught out by the seven-year-olds progression this season.

Cracking horse: Funambule Sivola has a live chance in the Marsh Chase at Aintree - the big race on the second day of the Grand National meeting. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

“I was absolutely thrilled with him at Cheltenham and what a little horse he is,” she said.

“It almost felt a like a win at Cheltenham.

“Just before the race I’d said to Venetia that, as long as he ran a good race, even if he came back seventh, if he came back safe I’d be happy and she agreed, saying it was incredible he was even in it. He’s clearly still progressing, each of his last three runs have been better than the last and he’s still only seven, he was the youngest runner in the Queen Mother so we’ve hopefully a lot of years left with him.”

Fakir D’oudairies was an 11-length winner 12 months ago, having chased home Allaho in the Ryanair a month earlier.

Double up: Harry Cobden on Clan Des Obeaux clear the last to win the Betway Bowl Chase for the second year running at Aintree. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Connections decided to avoid another clash with Willie Mullins’ charge, who duly routed the opposition in the Ryanair again, and Joseph O’Brien’s eight-year-old was placed well to win the Grade One Ascot Chase instead.

O’Brien said: “Fakir has a great chance hopefully. It’s a tough, competitive race, but he likes the course and distance.

“He ran very well in it last year and we’re excited to be going there again.”

Paul Nicholls runs both Hitman and Saint Calvados and feels they both hold similar claims.

“I can’t split them and it was almost down to a toss of a coin that Bryony [Frost] rides Hitman with Harry [Cobden] on Saint Calvados,” he told Betfair.

Meanwhile, Ahoy Senor will bid to gallop - and jump - his rivals into submission in the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

Though there are just four runners in the Grade One contest, the three-mile-one-furlong affair promises to be one of the highlights of the jumps season.

The Lucinda Russell-trained Ahoy Senor will bid to turn the tables on Bravemansgame and L’Homme Presse, having suffered defeat at the hands of each in his last two outings. Peter Scudamore, Russell’s partner and assistant, acknowledges the seven-year-old will need to be at the top of his game to overturn the form.

“The other two are great jumpers, ours is a great galloper, but it is a jumping race and we have to get our jumping together,” said former champion jockey Scudamore.

“You have to be concerned. The better they are, the more you worry about them.”

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was smiling once again in the Aintree winner’s enclosure after Clan Des Obeaux successfully defended his crown in the Betway Bowl despite a late challenge from Gordon Elliott’s Conflated yesterday.

Lit up by the application of first-time blinkers, the 13-2 shot, who had drifted in the market ahead of the race, took over the running three fences from home under Harry Cobden and soon put distance between himself and his rivals.

Ferguson, who loved nothing more than winning in Liverpool in his previous guise, said: “I had a great day here last year winning three Grade Ones.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done here - I never won three in a row at Anfield, that’s for sure!”