Lilium de Cotte a Cheltenham star in the making for JP

LILIUM DE COTTE, fourth in the Triumph Hurdle last term, made an impressive debut for owner JP McManus and trainer Nicky Henderson at Uttoxeter yesterday.

The four-year-old came home five-lengths clear of the field in the Box Telematics Beginners' Chase, beating Polar Red into second with Moreluck half a length away in third.

Formerly with Guillaume Macaire in France, Lilium De Cotte was a useful performer over timber last season and looks destined for better things over the larger obstacles this year.

He is now 16-1 chance from 20-1 with Blue Square, while Coral reacted to the gelding's success by trimming him to 16-1 from 20-1 for the Arkle.

Meanwhile, at Carisle, Lenny Lungo's Brooklyn Breeze took the first step along a road which will hopefully lead to Cheltenham next spring with an impressive performance in the Gordon W. Richards Memorial Novices' Chase.

Winner of a bumper, and his three races over hurdles, Brooklyn Breeze (7-4) was given a lovely introduction to the chasing game by Tony Dobbin, and taking the measure of Simply Supreme after four out, he bounded away to score by 25 lengths.

The two-and-a-half mile test was run in memory of the great Greystoke trainer, and it is the fourth time in a row Lungo and Dobbin have won it.

Lungo said: "We have won it with Lord Of The Sky, Direct Access and Bajan Bandit, and I think Brooklyn Breeze has got to be counted up there with them.

"He is not the typical National Hunt type horse. He is a tall horse and an elegant horse who has got bags of ability and we came here confident if he jumped as he has been doing at home."

Lungo added: "If we can win another couple of little races around the place, then we can go on to something bigger and take on who we want.

"He has won over three miles, but I think two and a half miles is his trip, and, God willing, he might finish up at the Cheltenham Festival."

Stevenson's Ashleybank Investments company sponsored what proved a very dramatic three-mile handicap chase and his Mr Woodentop (7-2 fav) ran out an appropriate winner to complete a double for him and Lungo, and a treble for Dobbin.

The race had it's fair share of drama with Kemal's Council, ridden by Liam Cooper falling at the first, while six out Interdit fell, bringing down Tregastel and in the ensuing melee, Dominic Elsworth was unseated from Lord Jack.

Dobbin had opened his account on Nicky Richards's Bob The Piler, a five-length winner of the second division of the Builder Center Novices' Hurdle.

Elsewhere, Limerick Boy looks set to reappear in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury tomorrow.

The Venetia Williams-trained entire is held in high regard but prevailing fast ground conditions over recent weeks have not been in his favour and he has bypassed a couple of intended engagements.

However, Graham Skeats, racing manager to owner's Favourites Racing, said yesterday: "We are definitely hopeful of getting him out on Saturday. Conditions have come right.

"It's a case of softer the better really but, as it stands at present, the ground is suitable and we'll go."

Limerick Boy rose through the ranks last year and ended the season by finishing second to Back In Front in Punchestown's Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.

This weekend's Listed race could well be a competitive affair with Elite Hurdle victor Well Chief and Sporazene, winner of the Irish Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, also entered.

"It looks like a trappy contest but he's only five so he's still improving and we have got that on our side," Skeats added.

"The Champion Hurdle is the long-term aim. There is no question that we have to improve to take a chance but these sort of races are stepping stones towards it."

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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