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Close Brothers favourite Imperial Aura to step up on Cheltenham run says Bailey

Imperial Aura (left) duels with winner Simply The Betts (right) and On The Slopes on Saturday
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Kim Bailey was delighted with Imperial Aura's second at Cheltenham on Saturday and says all roads lead to March's festival, where his promising gelding heads the betting for the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase.

The well-regarded son of Kalanisi, who won two of his three starts over hurdles, went off a 1-25 chance for his chasing debut at Fakenham in November and duly obliged before a respectable second to Pym at Cheltenham in December.

Dropped back to 2m4½f on Saturday, he went off 5-1 favourite for a classy novice handicap chase and found only Simply The Betts too good.

Watch Imperial Aura finish second on Saturday

His new rating of 143 will get him in the Close Brothers, which he is a general 10-1 for, although Coral and bet365 offer 12-1.

Kim Bailey: "Imperial Aura ran very well on ground that was probably too soft for him"

Bailey, who trains not far from the home of jump racing, wrote in his blog: "It was the biggest field Imperial Aura had ever run in over fences as he almost had a walkover first time at Fakenham, and his second race at Cheltenham, there were only four [Rockpoint refused to race], and one of those unseated early.

"On Saturday he was among horses and really had to learn. He did and travelled like the winner, jumping the last upsides he was always going to struggle, but he galloped to the line and the gap was closing.

"It was a very good run on ground that was probably too soft for him. Yes I hate being second, but Saturday we were running a horse who we were not a 100 per cent sure was at his best. Hopefully now all roads for Imperial Aura lead to Cheltenham in March."

The seven-year-old's black silks – he runs for Imperial Racing Partnership 2016 – have already graced Cheltenham's hallowed winner's enclosure having been carried by Imperial Commander, who landed the Ryanair and Gold Cup at the 2009 and 2010 festivals.

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Hopefully now all roads for Imperial Aura lead to Cheltenham in March
E.W. Terms