Willoughby Court produces bold round of jumping to lower Yanworth's colours
Neptune Novices' Hurdle hero Willoughby Court produced a bold, aggressive round of jumping under Nico de Boinville to lower the colours of Yanworth and run out an emphatic winner of this Grade 2 novice chase.
The Ben Pauling-trained six-year-old appeared in control down the home straight and had plenty in the tank to repel Yanworth, who looked in trouble approaching the fourth-last but kept on gamely to throw down a brief but unavailing challenge after the last.
Five runners went to post but the contest was essentially billed as a match between Grade 1-winning hurdlers Yanworth and Willoughby Court, with Yanworth sent off as the 5-6 market leader.
However, he failed to jump as fluently as Willoughby Court, the 15-8 second favourite, who improved markedly on the form of last month's Huntingdon success to score by three lengths.
Pauling said: He jumped brilliantly. He was brave when he had to be but he was also clever.
"He'll always improve fitness-wise from his first run because he does things easily at home and his jumping was different gear. I know he went a bit long and low at one, but he barely put a foot wrong and it's great to see because I always thought he was a chaser and he's proving me right. I think he could be very good."
Willoughby Court was cut to a top price of 12-1 (from 16) with BoyleSports for the JLT Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, while he was slashed to as short as 7-1 in places, and Pauling confirmed that race would be the objective.
He said: "The JLT is very much the target. I'm sure he'll stay three miles in time, but this year will be two and a half. I imagine the Dipper at Cheltenham [on New Year's Day] will be the next target."
Yanworth's rider Barry Geraghty said: "Mistakes cost him. He ran a good race and I still thought I had a chance at the last, but he'd missed a couple. He'd jumped well enough on the whole, and he'll learn plenty again.
"There's no doubt he should stay chasing. It was a good run and he wasn't beaten by a mug."
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