Champion Court (nearside) saw off the challenge of Solix for Dipper winPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Champion Court makes all for big Dipper win
Report: Cheltenham, Sunday
Cheltenham Pony Club Raceday Novices' Chase (Registered As Dipper Novices' Steeple Chase) (Grade 2) 2m5f, New course, 5yo+
CHAMPION COURT put in a gallant front-running performance to see off the late challenge of Solix having led from the off under Alain Cawley.
The Martin Keighley-trained seven-year-old was bouncing back to winning ways having been beaten over the Cheltenham fences on each of his last two starts.
In doing so he was boosting the form of Grands Crus, who had finished one place in front of Champion Court when winning at the course back in November.
This was a first winner at Cheltenham for Cawley and Champion Court did not go off unbacked with the huge New Year's Day crowd at the track supporting him into 6-1.
Cawley had taken his mount into an immediate lead with Invictus and Solix settled in mid-division. Ruby Walsh held up 6-5 favourite at the rear of the field, and the pair already looked like they were up against it when hampered four out which resulted in the rider being almost unseated.
Jumping the second-last, Barry Geraghty brought Solix upsides to challenge Champion Court, but the winner had enough left in reserve to rally again and win by a length and three-quarters.
After his landmark win Cawley said: "It is very good for Martin and I am very grateful.
"I think he would have finished second last time if he had not made a mistake.
"His jumping was outstanding today and he was very gutsy."
The win saw Champion Court's odds for both the RSA Chase and the Jewson Novices' Chase contract. He is as short as 16-1 for the RSA but can still be backed at 25-1 for that contest while he was also given a quote of 14-1 from Paddy Power for the Jewson.
This was a second win in five starts over fences for Champion Court and Keighlysaid: "Trying to give 5lb to Grands Crus was an impossible task and then last time here he made a bad mistake at the third last, which knocked the wind out of him and I'd say cost him second.
"I think that's the way he wantsto be ridden and it was an impressive run today. We'll give him a break now, freshen him up and then give him a prep race before he comes back here in March."