Green enters Festival equation
Chris Pea Green stunned even his trainer Gary Moore as he entitled himself to a shot at bigger targets with a decisive victory in the 32Red Juvenile Hurdle at Huntingdon.
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This race for the Chatteris Fen Trophy generally throws up also-rans for the Triumph Hurdle, and the seven-length margin accumulated by a gelding who has now won three times from four starts means Cheltenham will not be an unreasonable proposition.
Moore's son Josh hugged the inside rail of the Cambridgeshire track and found a willing response from the 12-1 chance over the final couple of flights as he left 5-2 favourite Zamdy Man toiling for the runner-up spot.
"He won a bumper here that I thought was a donkey race, then I should never have run him on the all-weather," said the trainer.
"I was amazed how easily he won at Lingfield last time, but I thought the race was no good.
"I was worried about his jumping on better ground here, but he has gone and made the biggest idiot ever out of me."
Asked about the Triumph, Moore said: "He's entered and the owners would love to go. Personally, I'd rather go to Liverpool."
Cheltenham has reappeared on the horizon for one-time National Hunt and Denman Chase winner Tricky Trickster, who made a heart-warming return to the fold in the CGA Foxhunter Trial.
Off since sustaining a serious injury in the 2011 Midlands National, the 4-5 favourite defeated three opponents at his leisure.
Tom Jonason, representing trainer Paul Nicholls, said: "He cracked some vertebrae when he fell at Uttoxeter and it was a bit touch and go.
"It's great to see he has retained some of the old magic and he'll have to run again somewhere to get qualified for the Cheltenham Foxhunter."
Martin Keighley's resourcefulness saw Seymour Eric (6-1) arrive at the course in time to make it three-from-three for his new stable in the TurfTV Handicap Hurdle.
The trainer's horsebox had broken down close to his Cotswold stables, and he said: "It was lucky, as it broke down near a garage and I borrowed Mary Hambro's box, as she is only a mile away from us.
"It takes some doing to win three handicaps and go up 25lb. The track wasn't ideal but his stamina came into play."
Nick Scholfield, who rode Soutine to finish third, was found to have weighed out at 10st 6lb and weighed in at 10st 8lb.
The stewards handed the jockey a six-day ban (February 21-26), but he gained some minor compensation as he landed the closing British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race aboard Kim Bailey's Molly's A Diva (8-1)
Rouge Et Blanc (7-2) has thrived since being relieved of his position as trainer Oliver Sherwood's hack last season and he scored again in the Happy 66th Birthday Sandra Charteress Handicap Chase.
Jockey Tom Garner said: "He had a lot of wind problems which bothered him last year.
"The better ground has helped and he was blowing up over the last couple of fences so he should come on from it."
A superb ride from Sam Thomas saw 5-2 favourite Arbeo regain his lead on the line from Ballypatrick in a thriller for the 32Red Casino Novices' Handicap Chase.
Arbeo had to survive a long stewards' inquiry as the pair were close on the run-in and trainer Diana Grissell said: "I don't think I'll run him over three miles again and we'll keep him handicapping as he's only rated 110."
Art Professor (9-2), out of sorts since finishing fifth in the Martin Pipe at the last Festival, was a willing partner for Aidan Coleman in the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Venetia Williams, up to a lofty 65 for the campaign after a double at Doncaster, said: "They were queuing up behind but they were all being pushed along. He might go up 7lb for that but it would be tight for the race at Cheltenham."