14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Alasi holds court over ChampionHeadlines
Alasi just gets the better of Champion Court (left)

Outsider-of-three Alasi ambushed what was anticipated to be a routine Cheltenham Festival warm-up for Champion Court in a graduation chase at Kempton.

Martin Keighley's Champion Court, who had produced a tigerish effort when eventually fourth on his previous visit to the course in the King George on Boxing Day, was limp in comparison here as the 4-9 favourite.

Alain Cawley attempted to make all the running but found himself working hard to stay in front while Dominic Elsworth and Alasi (9-1) loomed dangerously alongside, and he eventually conceded the £12,500 prize by a neck.

The Paul Webber-trained winner remains one of the best National Hunt racing mares, finishing fourth to Quevega over hurdles at Cheltenham last spring, but Keighley was adamant this was not Champion Court's true form.

The trainer reported: "He (Cawley) said he didn't feel like he normally does. Normally he takes you there, but that wasn't him today. He had a hard race in the King George, and maybe he would be better with a lead now rather than doing the donkey work. We've got five weeks until the Ryanair Chase."

Zoe Davison and her team were overwhelmed to see 12-year-old Nozic (4-1) win for the first time this season in the Racing Plus Chase Day 23.02.13 Handicap Chase after a string of game efforts in defeat.

Simon Clare, one of the members of the The Lump O'Clock Syndicate, said: "There's a race for him at Sandown in a couple of weeks, and if he could go up enough in the weights, we'd hope he could sneak into the Grand Annual at Cheltenham."

Nicky Henderson was again a strong force at one of his favourite tracks with a 393-1 treble. One came in the JP McManus silks as Tony McCoy forced Prince Of Pirates (13-2) a length and a quarter ahead in the Handicap Chase.

The trainer, who tragically lost Darlan on Monday, said: "We have all got to pick ourselves up again. (Prince Of Pirates) wants better ground. He won't go to Cheltenham but there will be something for him in the summer."

Ericht (13-2) had a period in the wilderness but has started to offer more this year, adding the TurfTV Novices' Hurdle to a recent jumpers' bumper at the course, while McCoy and 5-6 favourite Master Malt had to give best to Barry Geraghty and Tradewinds (6-1) in the Racing UK maiden bumper.

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