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Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 16:01 UK

What A Friend wins Totesport Bowl for Ferguson

John Smith's Grand National, Aintree, Saturday, 1615 BST
Coverage BBC One/BBC HD/BBC Radio 5 live/online, with other races also across the BBC 8-10 April. Highlights: 0030, BBC Two

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson's horse triumphs at Aintree

By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport at Aintree

What A Friend claimed victory for part-owner Sir Alex Ferguson as favourite Imperial Commander unseated his rider in the Totesport Bowl at Aintree.

The win completed a double for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Ruby Walsh after the triumph of Big Buck's.

A day after his Manchester United side exited the Champions League, Ferguson had reason to cheer as his Lexus Chase winner held off Carruthers to win.

Imperial Commander's jockey Paddy Brennan was unseated at the 14th fence.

Nigel Twiston-Davies said of his Cheltenham Gold Cup winner: "The horse is fine - he didn't jump very well and if you don't jump you don't win.

"He made an early mistake and his jumping fell apart so we'll send him off for a nice long break now."

Earlier, jockey Aidan Coleman, who is due to ride 2009 winner Mon Mome in the Grand National on Saturday, was taken to hospital with internal injuries after a crunching fall in the novices' hurdle.

He was later discharged and must pass a check from the Aintree doctors if he is to resume riding on Friday.

The 5-2 shot What A Friend jumped the last fence alongside Carruthers (second) and Nacarat (third) before sprinting clear in the home straight.

The irony of Ferguson winning on Merseyside will not have been lost on the United manager as he celebrated victory on what has been promoted as 'Liverpool Day' at the course.

"I'm very pleased, it's fantastic and I was so excited," said Ferguson.

606: DEBATE

"It's great. That's the beauty of the racing game. Every fence you're jumping yourself, that's the beauty of it.

"We knew the form of Carruthers because we've run against him in the past, so I was quite happy, but the other fella (Nacarat) gave me a fright.

"I've had a lot of great winners, but to win a race of this magnitude and class is fantastic. I'm really pleased.

"He's a young horse and the aim is to go to the Gold Cup next year."

Big Buck's earlier stamped his authority as the leading staying hurdler of recent years with victory at Aintree on the opening day of the Grand National meeting.

Big Buck's ridden by Ruby Walsh
Big Buck's also won the Liverpool Hurdle last year

The seven-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh, ground down his rivals in the Liverpool Hurdle for an eighth straight victory.

The dual World Hurdle winner, sent off the 3-10 favourite, travelled well in the extended three-mile contest.

And he dug deep to pull clear of runner-up Souffleur with Possol third.

"I was a bit worried because it was a small field and you worry you are not going to get an end-to-end gallop," said Nicholls.

"It was difficult for Ruby. You don't want to be in front and have him pull himself up three out. He'll have a nice holiday now.

"It was quite nerve-wracking. The pressure's on and you just want it to go right."

He won't run again this season, and we will go down the hurdling route next year, with the aim of winning a third World Hurdle at Cheltenham

Big Buck's owner Andy Stewart

Owner Andy Stewart told BBC Sport there were no immediate plans to send Big Buck's back over the bigger obstacles in steeplechases in the immediate future.

However, the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup is a potential target should he remain fit and retain his form.

"He won't run again this season, and we will go down the hurdling route next year, with the aim of winning a third World Hurdle at Cheltenham," he said.

Stewart also reported his chaser My Will, a 40-1 chance for the Grand National on Saturday despite finishing third in 2009, to be in good order.

"I think he's overpriced and is capable of running a big race," he said.

Coleman appeared to be kicked in the stomach and was holding his shoulder after falling from his mount Double Handful in the novices' hurdle.

Coleman picked the wrong horse last year when he opted to ride Stan for trainer Venetia Williams, and Liam Treadwell guided 100-1 chance Mon Mome to victory.

It is not yet known whether he is likely to be fit to ride Mon Mome, who is rated a 10-1 chance this time having finished third behind Imperial Commander in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 19 March.



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see also
McCoy picks Grand National ride
08 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
Carberry rides National contender
08 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
Grand National festival under way
08 Apr 10 |  Merseyside
Twiston-Davies eyes National bow
01 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
Imperial Commander lands Gold Cup
19 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Grand National meeting schedule
05 Apr 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC to show Grand National in HD
29 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing


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