Previous Betway Bowl winners Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy set to face-off at this year’s Aintree renewal

Previous winners Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy are among nine runners declared for the Betway Bowl at Aintree on Thursday.

Previous winners Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy are among nine runners declared for the Betway Bowl at Aintree on Thursday.

Kemboy was a brilliant winner of the Grade One contest in 2019 for Willie Mullins, beating the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux into second.

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The application of cheekpieces appeared to have the desired effect for Clan Des Obeaux - part-owned by legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson - in last year’s renewal as he struck gold by a whopping 26 lengths, before going on to win the Punchestown Gold Cup.

Runaway success: Harry Cobden riding Clan Des Obeaux clear the last to win The Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree by 26 lengths last April. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

The 10-year-old has been beaten twice since and is interestingly fitted with blinkers for the first time for the defence his crown on Merseyside.

Kemboy has not managed to get his head in front since claiming a fourth Grade One success in last year’s Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, most recently finishing fifth when bidding for back-to-back wins in the Dublin Racing Festival feature in February.

The one to beat on recent form is Dan Skelton’s Protektorat, who was best of the British when third behind Henry de Bromhead’s pair of A Plus Tard and Minella Indo in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Conflated, trained by Gordon Elliott, was a surprise winner of the Irish Gold Cup and looked set to be placed in the Ryanair at Cheltenham before falling two from home.

Previous winner: Willie Mullins' Kemboy won the 2019 renewal of the Betway Bowl. Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire.

Colin Tizzard’s Eldorado Allen finished third in the Ryanair and is another leading contender, as is Royale Pagaille after finishing fifth in the Gold Cup for Venetia Williams.

Nigel Twiston-Davies will be praying for rain to give Bristol De Mai the best possible chance of claiming victory, while Ann Hamilton steps Nuts Well up in class after a Listed triumph at Kelso. Olly Murphy’s outsider Itchy Feet completes the line-up.

Champion Hurdle second and third Epatante and Zanahiyr renew rivalry in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson’s Epatante has won and been placed twice in the last three runnings of the Champion Hurdle and will test the water over two and a half miles for the first time, as does Elliott’s Zanahiyr.

Nicholls saddles both Monmiral and McFabulous, who are both previous winners at Aintree.

Brewin’upastorm (Olly Murphy), Glory And Fortune (Tom Lacey) and Guard Your Dreams (Nigel Twiston-Davies) complete the seven-strong field.

The Duke of York Stakes has been nominated by Richard Hannon as a potential stepping stone to Royal Ascot for Al Quoz Sprint runner-up Happy Romance.

The four-year-old daughter of Dandy Man ran a blinder in finishing a length and a quarter behind A Case Of You over six furlongs at Meydan on World Cup night.

Sean Levey’s mount, who won the Weatherbys Super Sprint as a juvenile and took the Group Three Hackwood Stakes at Newbury last season, will now have some downtime after her exertions in Dubai, before a return to a track where she won on her only previous visit.

The six-furlong Grade Two on the Knavesmire is her preferred option, according to her East Everleigh handler.

“Happy Romance ran a lovely race in Dubai. I was very happy,” said Hannon. It was just a shame she was not drawn closer to the rail, as it seemed they had a bit of an advantage over there, but we were delighted with her.

“I put her in the Duke of York the other day, but I have put her in the two races at Ascot, the five and the six (King’s Stand and Platinum Jubilee), and we will work back from there, really.

“She will have a run beforehand, there is that one at York perhaps - there are options - but she will have a little break now.”

]# and keep her ticking over.”

Hannon is also mulling over options for Brocklesby Conditions Stakes winner Persian Force, following his runaway success at Doncaster.

Bought for E225,000 at Goffs in September, the son of Mehmas lived up to his lofty reputation and price tag when bolting up in the traditional turf season curtain-raiser, by four and three-quarter lengths under Rossa Ryan.

“Persian Force is is very nice horse,” said Hannon. “He’s come back and he’s relaxed like good horses do.

“I would imagine we will look at something like the Olympic Glory Stakes on Lockinge day at Newbury (May 14) or something like that.

“He will have one or two runs before Royal Ascot.”

Last season’s Greenham winner Chindit took the Listed Doncaster Mile on his seasonal return and should the ground be sufficiently quick enough, could line up in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on May 14.

It is a race the Hannon yard has won five times previously, the last in 2015 with Night Of Thunder.

However, Hannon is in no rush to pick his next target and said: “Chindit has options. There is the Lockinge or that race at Sandown (the Group Two bet365 Mile on April 22) as well, so that is probably the next stop - one of those two, probably.

“I don’t want to run him on soft ground, though.”