Court just champion at Aintree

Champion Court staked an early claim for staying novice chase honours with a promising first win over fences in the Matalan Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

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Trainer Martin Keighley wrote off the six-year-old’s debut over the bigger obstacles at Perth, where he unseated his rider, and his faith in Champion Court’s fencing ability was duly restored, as the 2-1 favourite closely tracked early leader Saint Are before taking it up jumping the sixth-last.

His jumping was mainly sound here under Paddy Brennan, although not totally smooth at the last two. Running on strongly, Keighley’s charge had four and a half lengths in hand of Tim Vaughan’s Saint Are, who stuck to his guns well and is another who looks sure to be suited by a step up in trip.

Keighley said: “His first run over fences was a disaster. He was way too keen. He’s been a lot more settled at home and I thought it was a fantastic performance. It was a good little race today.

“He made that one mistake and kept going. Paddy (Brennan) said that at the line he still had plenty left. He’s a very talented horse. We’ll have a look at the Paddy Power meeting. If we get some soft ground there at Cheltenham it would be ideal. We’ll probably step him up to three miles.”

Champion Court is a 16/1 chance with Victor Chandler for the RSA Chase at the Festival in March.

Brennan bagged a double as Ian Williams’ Barbatos (7-4 favourite) put his experience to good use in a driving finish to the European Breeders’ Fund “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.

Rival D’Estruval is set to go chasing after relishing every yard of the extended three miles to run out a ready winner of the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier).

Given a patient ride by Graham Lee, the Pauline Robson-trained gelding arrived on the scene travelling powerfully with two to jump.

Across The Bay did not go down without a fight, but the 4-1 favourite was always nicely holding Donald McCain’s runner, coming out on top by a length and a half in the manner of a progressive horse.

Robson said: “I’m chuffed to bits with him. We hoped and thought there was a good hurdle race left in him before he goes over fences. I’m delighted with that as it was a canny enough race.”

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Court just champion at Aintree

Champion Court staked an early claim for staying novice chase honours with a promising first win over fences in the Matalan Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

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