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Gauvain Throws His Hat into Champion Chase Ring

Nick Williams' classy chaser Gauvain put up an impressive performance on his seasonal bow at Cheltenham on Sunday when proving far too good for the hot favourite Woolcombe Folly in the Schloer Chase and could be set to take in the major two-mile events for the remainder of the term, writes Elliot Slater.

© Grossick Racing Photography


Officially rated 10lbs inferior to the favourite, Gauvain gave 2lbs to the Paul Nicholls-trained runner and stormed home by an eye-catching 16-lengths having taken up the running at halfway and gone clear before the third from home. Noel Fehily's mount never looked like stopping up the Cheltenham hill, and though he tried hard to bridge the gap there was little doubt that Ruby Walsh was giving only vain chase to the leader throughout the final half mile. Those looking to place an ante-post Cheltenham bet will have been impressed.

Last term Gauvain was tried at up to two-miles-six -furlongs and ran with credit on occasions, including when second at that distance to the smart Riverside Theatre in the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase in February. Winning first-time out for the second successive season Gauvain's performance caught the eye of ante-post odds compilers many of whom slashed his odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March to as short as 16/1 (from 50's).

No firm plans were announced by Williams for a next outing for the nine-year-old son of Sternkoenig, but it would have to be assumed that all the top two-mile events are potential targets now for the German-bred who goes particularly well over the stiff two-miles of the Cheltenham track but has also run with credit at Ascot, Sandown and Newbury in the past.

Sizing Europe remains a marginal favourite for the Champion Chase at 5/1, with his old rival and former winner Big Zeb generally on offer at around 11/2.

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