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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Fago lives up to billing on UK bowHeadlines
Ruby Walsh and Fago on their way to victory at Newbury

Paul Nicholls' French import Fago made an impressive British debut in the Betfred Double Delight Novices' Chase at Newbury.

Although seen to good effect over longer distances in France, Graham Wylie's purchase was dropped down to two miles and a furlong here and is considered a prospect for the Arkle Trophy.

Sent off a well-backed 5-4 favourite, the dark-coloured gelding was slick over his fences and pushed out by Ruby Walsh to finish three and a half lengths clear of Ohio Gold.

Nicholls' assistant, Dan Skelton, said: "We haven't had him long and he jumped much better than you might expect for a horse that we thought could find improvement from what we've seen at home. He has done all his schooling in the school, as the weather has meant he could not go outside. He'll be entered in the Arkle and the obvious step up would be the Kingmaker at Warwick, although that's not set in stone."

Andrew Balding is a fleeting presence on the jumping scene at the moment but Chiberta King's third attempt resulted in a wide-margin victory in the Betfred "The Bonus King" Novices' Hurdle.

Balding said of the Paddy Brennan-ridden 8-1 chance: "He is my string. We have had some good ones in the past, like Scorned, Briareus and Distant Prospect, but I think I only had a bumper winner last year. This horse was Group-placed on the Flat but he was finding it hard to win. The main thing was to run him left-handed and get him to jump straight. I know he has plenty of experience but I would think Cheltenham will come a year too soon."

The Flat trainers' trend continued into the Betfred Goals Galore Handicap Chase with Mick Channon's Loch Ba.

The gelding was effectively still giving Henrietta Knight back-to-back victories in the Harwell Trophy following Glens Boy a year ago, as she used to train Loch Ba and is still deeply involved with the yard of her near-neighbour Channon. Loch Ba (8-1) was far too strong for his nearest rival, the 4-1 favourite Mountainous, and came eight lengths away.

"I didn't think he did anything wrong when he was second at Ascot last time. He didn't put a foot wrong here and he jumped great," said Channon, who deferred race plans to Knight.

She said: "I think he might go for one of the three-mile handicap chases at Cheltenham."

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18 December 2014

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