Don Poli gets the better of Many Clouds at Aintree
Don Poli wore down Many Clouds from the final fence to take Listed honours in the Betfred Lotto '£100K Cash Giveaway' Chase at Aintree.
Many Clouds, winner of the Crabbie's Grand National in April, made a gallant bid to give 5lb to Don Poli (6-5 favourite), but Willie Mullins' raider was able to grind out victory.
Southfield Theatre and Many Clouds set a steady pace on the soft ground until the latter cried enough with five fences left. Many Clouds stuck to the task but the Willie Mullins-trained Don Poli, winner of the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, gained the upper hand under Bryan Cooper on the run-in to score by four lengths.
Menorah was third of the four runners.
Cooper, who produced a fine performance in the saddle having endured tack problems, said: "The saddle slipped on Don Poli. It was kind of gone after a circuit but I thought that, with a few jumps, it might come forward again.
"Don Poli did it well and that wouldn't have helped him - it would have probably pinched him a bit. He showed guts and he is never going to be impressive in what he does, so I wouldn't read too much into today. He got the job done and will have to step up now.
"I always knew that I would come out better in a battle because he is tough. To be fair to Many Clouds, he has had a run and Don Poli hasn't. I was quite happy that, if I didn't make a mistake over the last two fences, I had him covered.
"Don Poli is the one that is very hard to compare with the other Gigginstown horses because he only does what he has to but, going by Cheltenham last year, he was very impressive.
"I would imagine that we would go to the Lexus Chase or King George and we might have a better idea of where we are going then."
Oliver Sherwood declared himself "chuffed" with the effort of Many Clouds.
He said: "He travelled and jumped great and I thought we had Don Poli beaten, but we were giving him 5lb and every pound counts.
"He showed his old enthusiasm and still has plenty of petrol. He could even come on again for that run.
"I haven't got a clue where we go next, but the opportunities are there in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and the Denman at Newbury. We'll just have a think."
Don Poli remains unchanged at 7-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Paddy Power and 6-1 with Betfred, while Many Clouds is 16-1 clear favourite for the Grand National with the latter from 20-1.