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Clondaw Castle booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival as he got off the mark over fences at the third attempt with a bold front-running performance in the Dick Christian Novices’ Chase at Leicester.
Trainer Tom George has the showpiece meeting in mind for the seven-year-old, who outclassed his two rivals, coming home 10 lengths clear of 8-13 favourite Burbank in the hands of Ciaran Gethings.
“He always promised to be a good horse,” said George of his 6-4 winner.
“He won his bumper very well, and two novice hurdles, and then had a problem with a splint bone in the middle of last season.
“We had a few more setbacks early on this season and I jut hope we get a clean run of it now.”
He added: “He’s tailor-made for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival, so that’s where he’ll go. Whether we go somewhere else or not first depends on what the handicapper does.”
George and Gethings doubled up with Another Stowaway (8-1) in the Leicester Annual Badge Holders Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
“He did it well. My assistant Ciaran McKee has put a lot of work into this horse and rides him every day,” said George.
“He’s an improver and is heading in the right direction, but he has to go and prove himself again. He’ll make a good chaser.”
The Captains Inn (20-1) repaid a little of his £220,000 purchase price when making a winning over timber in the Croxton Park Novices’ Hurdle, on a day that saw a wintry shower or two.
Bought into the Ben Pauling stable after finishing second in an Irish point-to-point last spring, the five-year-old made up for a disappointing bumper run at Warwick last month to outpoint long-time leader Chef D’Equipe under Daryl Jacob.
“We fancied him at Warwick and for whatever reason he didn’t perform that day, but he was right today and I think he’s a nice horse,” said the jockey.
“He’s not doing everything the right way at the moment. I think once you correct the wrongs and turn them into rights, I think he’ll develop into a really nice horse.”
French import Dame Du Soir (3-1) made all under Tom Scudamore to open her British account in the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Qualifier.
David Bridgwater is hoping the six-year-old can progress after beating 6-4 favourite The White Mouse by three and three-quarter lengths.
The trainer said: “That’s her third run for us, she’s had a few niggly problems.
“We didn’t run her for seven months and in that time she’s grown. I think she’ll be a nice horse.
“I would have thought she’d want further. I felt I was risking it running her over two miles.”
Trigger Nichol (9-2) appreciated the step up to two and three-quarter miles as he improved on his fencing debut to give trainer Dr Richard Newland his 50th success of the season in the Racing TV Handicap Chase.
Sam Twiston-Davies brought the seven-year-old into the race steadily to lead after three out, going on to beat Boughtbeforelunch by 11 lengths.
“He disappointed last time, but we thought he’d better over fences. We decided to leave the cheekpieces on and the step up in trip has helped,” said Twiston-Davies.
Falcon Sun (5-2 favourite) comfortably followed up last month’s course and distance victory in the Humberstone Handicap Hurdle for the formidable combination of Dan and Harry Skelton.
“He seems to like it round here. Harry gave him a good ride from the front and took the race by the scruff of the neck early on,” said Skelton’s assistant, Tom Messenger.
The concluding Brook Conditional Jockeys’ Mares’ Handicap Hurdle belonged to trainer Robin Dickin, who sent out the first two home, Lara Trot (16-1) and Tara Well.