Idole in line for Festival repeat

Venetia Williams was in double form at Plumpton on Monday following wins for De Blanc and Idole First, with the latter now a possible for a return trip to the Cheltenham Festival.

The seven-year-old claimed glory in the Coral Cup last March and is on target to repeat the dose after staying on well in the Tyser Insurance Ltd Beginners’ Chase to beat long-time leader Nycteos by four lengths.

“The form of his last race has worked out very well and he picked up very nicely down the hill,” the trainer said.

“He will be entered for the Coral Cup on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, but he has all sorts of options.”

De Blanc had earlier justified favouritism in the feature Chris Poole And George Ennor Celebration Novices’ Chase on what was an emotional afternoon.

The six-year-old prevailed by three and a half lengths from Mioche D’Estruval, with Concert Pianist taking third, 18 lengths back, and there were poignant scenes in the packed winner’s enclosure, as the race commemorated two leading racing journalists who passed away last year.

“It’s a shame that George and Chris are not here to present the trophy,” said Williams. “She jumps nicely and she is being aimed at the Mares’ Final at Uttoxeter on the Saturday after the Cheltenham Festival on Midlands National day.”

Favourite-backers had got off to a fine start when Heathcote (8-13) won this opening Sportsguide 25th Anniversary Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle by a length and a half from Ardglass, with Avalon a further three and a half lengths back in third.

The winner was possibly fortunate in that he benefited from the last-fence tumble of Mac Federal.

Trainer Gary Moore said: “I thought that he was well-held but, personally, I think that he’s better than that as he was edgy today and I don’t know why.

“I’ll enter him for the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on the opening day.”

The powerful team of Jonjo O’Neill and Tony McCoy teamed up for a facile victory with Alright Now M’Lad (8-1), sporting the colours of legendary Irish owner and gambler J P McManus, in the Evening Standard Commemorates Chris Poole Handicap Hurdle

The six-year-old – a 33-1 winner here last time out – was seven lengths too powerful for Amanpuri, with King Georges taking the minor honours.

The winner’s enclosure suffered another invasion when Trompette (9-2) prevailed by half a length from Blaeberry for the Elite Racing Club in the Chris Poole Memorial Evening Standard Mares’ Only Novices’ Hurdle, with Methodical three lengths away in third.

Winning trainer Nicky Henderson was not present but travelling head lad Johnny Worrall said: “She has improved for her debut at Warwick and liked the soft ground. She jumped OK with no problems but I don’t know what the boss has in mind now.

“We were quite hopeful coming here today.”

Martin Pipe continued his fine course record when Better Moment (7-2 favourite) defied joint top-weight in the Racing Post ‘Hands And Heels’ Jumps Series Handicap Hurdle.

The nine-year-old mastered Sunset King by two lengths, despite hitting the last after going to the front two out. Monsal Dale was third, eight lengths adrift.

Better Moment was a first victory for 19-year-old amateur Charlie Wallis, who works for the master of Nicholashayne, and, judging by this success, could be worth noting in future contests.

The concluding bumper brought up a double for O’Neill and McCoy, again in the McManus colours, with Cockspur (13-2), who battled well to beat Flight Leader by a length and a half.

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