Celestial Halo ends barren run

Celestial Halo will have other targets than the Cheltenham Festival despite enjoying a belated return to the winner's enclosure in the totesport.com National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell today.

Celestial Halo will have other targets than the Cheltenham Festival despite enjoying a belated return to the winner's enclosure in the totesport.com National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell today.

More a super-sub for trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Andy Stewart's leading stayer Big Buck's these days, the seven-year-old did land the 2008 Triumph Hurdle but had been on a losing run since November 2009.

A rain-lashed afternoon in Sussex saw a reduction in the size and quality of the fields on the track's biggest meeting of the year and three of the eight runners were withdrawn from the Grade Two feature.

Returned to hurdles after failing to take to novice chasing, Celestial Halo (6-4) had looked far more like his old self when beaten a nose by Mille Chief at Wincanton eight days earlier.

He bounded around Fontwell under Harry Skelton and was in full control by the second-last, eventually beating last year's winner Trenchant by six lengths.

The 11-8 favourite Karabak badly bungled a flight at halfway and despite Tony McCoy's efforts, could only finish a distant fourth.

Stewart said: "He has been taken out of the Champion Hurdle, but he is still in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle as a precaution in case Big Buck's was not able to run.

"Since returning to hurdling he seems to have regained his old enthusiasm, and don't forget he's a former winner of the Triumph Hurdle and a former runner-up in the Champion Hurdle.

"His aim will be the Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles and in the summer we hope he can hit the headlines by being Paul Nicholls' first winner on the Flat in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot."

The ground was exceptionally testing around the figure-of-eight circuit and it caused Stewart and Nicholls to withdraw their outside Grand National hope Ornais from the Fuller's London Pride Foxhunters Trial.

He is likely to run at Newbury next week instead. The race itself went to 5-6 favourite Herons Well in fighting style.

Battling qualities needed to come to the fore throughout the afternoon and Bunglasha Lady is certainly not short of them.

Stamina is no object for the Warren Greatrex-trained mare, as she had also won on her previous start on soft ground at Towcester and was stepping back up to two miles and six furlongs for the totesport.com Supporting The Racehorse Sanctuary Novices' Hurdle.

Hong Kong Harry had every chance coming down to the last but Bunglasha Lady (3-1) kept finding more for Wayne Hutchinson and drew five lengths clear on the run-in.

"She did it really well," said Greatrex.

"She jumps, handled the conditions no problem and is improving all the time.

"She's not over-big but I think she's jumping better than ever now. The plan would be to go for the mares' final at Newbury."

Gary Moore's Fruity O'Rooney (5-4 favourite) made virtually every yard of the running in the four-runner Play Poker At tspoker.com Novices' Chase.

Second in his previous three starts - including to the useful Quantitativeeasing at the course in January - the jolly found the post just in time, a neck ahead of his market rival Sarando but the post came in time and he finished a neck in front.

In-form Colin Tizzard combined with his son Joe in the 200% Deposit Bonus At Tspoker.com Handicap Chase when Rateable Value (2-1 favourite) mowed down the front-running Massini Sunset.

It was a similar story in the Wildwood Golf Club Supports The Racehorse Sanctuary Handicap Hurdle when Jodie Mogford's stirring effort on 25-1 chance Quincy Des Pictons paid off.

Richard Johnson travelled to the course just to ride Tim Vaughan's Destroyer Deployed in the Translloyd Group Supports The Racehorse Sanctuary-sponsored bumper and it was worth the journey as the 5-2 shot confirmed Towcester superiority over Vincentian despite a penalty.

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