Kempton success could be key to Cheltenham hopes

TRAINER Martin Keighley believes today’s Graduation Chase at Kempton is the perfect opportunity for stable star Champion Court to secure a confidence-boosting victory ahead of next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Second to Sir Des Champs in the Jewson Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last March, the eight-year-old has run two 
excellent races this term, not least when fourth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

He comes back to an 
extended two-and-a-half miles for his latest appearance and, with just two rivals in opposition, Keighley hopes the race should set him up perfectly for the Ryanair Chase.

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“He’s been in good form and hopefully this is a great opportunity for him to get his head in front again,” said the handler.

“Hopefully, he can get a win on the board and then, if everything goes well, we can go to the Ryanair full of confidence. We know he likes the track after his good run in the King George and the ground has dried out as well, so everything looks good.”

Champion Court is taken on by the Paul Nicholls-trained Domtaline, as well as Paul Webber’s talented mare Alasi, who will be ridden by Guiseley-born Dominic Elsworth.

Webber could not be happier with his charge, who returns to fences for the first time this season having filled the runner-up spot in Listed hurdle races on his last two starts.

“We’ve always wanted to run her again over fences in the right conditions, which is right-handed on reasonable ground. She’s never been in better form in her life,” he said.

Bold Sir Brian could still line up at Cheltenham, despite being scratched from both the Betfred Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase.

The JLT Speciality Handicap Chase is the likely target at next month’s Festival for the Lucinda Russell-trained seven-year-old, who took a heavy fall in the Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham last month.

“We’ve been speaking to the owners and we’re going to aim for the big ones at Cheltenham next season. It’s a year too early for him,” said the Scottish-based handler.

Malton trainer John Quinn’s JCB Triumph Hurdle hopes suffered another setback after Calculated Risk was unplaced at Huntingdon.

The race came just five days after Kashmir Peak suffered a fall at Musselburgh, though Quinn does have a third potential Triumph entry in the form of Wetherby and Catterick winner Hidden Justice.

However, Art Professor’s success at Huntingdon was a 69th winner of the season for in-form Aidan Coleman, equalling his previous career-best tally which was accumulated in 2009-10. The horse is trained by Venetia Williams, who also had winners at Doncaster courtesy of Hada Men and Relax.

Trainer Harry Fry has been fined £1,000 by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority after Bold Chief tested positive for ketamine 
after being pulled up at Kempton on November 5.

The panel was unable to establish the source of the substance, and could not be sure the administration of the substance was accidental and Fry had taken all reasonable care. They found Fry in breach of Rule (C)53 and fined him £1,000.