Azertyuiop outguns Chief rival
Azerytuiop outjumped Well Chief to take the totepool Game Spirit Chase at Newbury. Connections of the eight-year-old will head to Cheltenham next month brimming with confidence.
After a mistake at the fifth fence, Timmy Murphy was always fighting a losing game on Well Chief as he fought to get back into his rival's slipstream.
And while Well Chief was sloppy a couple of times, the winner put in a virtually faultless display of jumping under Ruby Walsh.
With trainer Paul Nicholls warning that last year's Queen Mother Champion Chase hero was lacking peak fitness as part of his preparation for back-to-back victories, punters were in a quandary as to who to send off favourite for the £60,000 prize.
But they just about got it right as Azertyuiop was returned the 11-10 favourite, just ahead of 5-4 chance Well Chief.
Azertyuiop was always travelling well behind pacesetter Mister McGoldrick and although Well Chief tried to close on the home turn, the eventual winner was going much the best of the three.
Mister McGoldrick soon found the pace too hot and dropped away, leaving the big two to battle it out.
But even a tired jump at the last did not make any difference to the result, Azertyuiop digging deep to win by two and a half lengths, with his stablemate Armaturk a distant third.
"Ruby has kept saying to me that we didn't want to have him right before the big day, and I'm absolutely delighted with that - it was just the job," Nicholls said. "He was heavy today, just as I had been telling everyone. He's had a little blow after the last but I've got five or six kilos left, just to tighten him up.
"I do think that going left-handed helps him a little bit, too."
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