Skelton wary of rivals on day one

It is day one of the Aintree Festival on Thursday, and punters are in for a treat with four Grade One contests to come at the Merseyside track.

The majority of Thursday’s races are jammed-packed with first-class horses, and that includes the Betway Bowl Chase at 14:55.

Dan Skelton’s Protektorat (11/4) leads the field, and rightly so, after finishing third in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup at Prestbury Park.

Skelton believes his charge sets the standard for one of the feature races, and he was successful on his last visit to Aintree, winning the Many Clouds Chase by 25-lengths, maintaining an unbeaten record at the Merseyside layout in doing so.

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Even though a second Grade One success could well be on the cards, Skelton admits Thursday’s race is extremely competitive.

He told reporters: “It was a 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 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.”

Conflated, Kemboy, Clan Des Obeaux, Eldorado Allen and Royale Pagaille will also compete in the race, which is third on Thursday’s schedule.

Aintree’s meeting starts at 13:45 on Thursday with the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase, while all eyes will be on Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper (10/11) in the following contest at 14:20.

Pied Piper finished third in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and will need to see off Padraig Roche’s Brazil (2/1) on Thursday in the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

The Betway Aintree Hurdle could come down to two horses at 15:30, with both Epatante (15/8) and Zanahiyr (2/1) well fancied for the Grade One battle.

The Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase will then take place at 14:05, while the card comes to a close at 17:15, with a Grade Two Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ where the likes of Willie Mullins’ Ashroe Diamond at 4/1 and the aptly-named Rosy Redrum at 10/3 are amongst the leading contenders.

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