Return Spring got the better of Quartz De Thaix after a fine duel for the Rewards4Racing Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
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Three miles in testing conditions was always going to be a tough ask and while very few managed to get into the contest, having passed Quartz de Thaix on the home turn, the 7/2 favourite had to fight off a renewed and persistent challenge from his rival.
Quartz De Thaix put in a good leap at the last and took the lead on the run in, but the winner fought back grittily under Richard Johnson to gain the verdict by three-and-a-quarter lengths with Florafern 28 lengths behind in third.
Trainer Philip Hobbs said of the winner: "He stays well but we were a bit concerned with how he would cope with the bad ground. He's going the right way and we'll look at a Pertemps qualifier ahead of the Festival.
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"He needs to qualify for the race by finishing in the first eight, but he would have done so on every start this season, and there are a few opportunities left for him."