National Hunt Chase: Blenheim has staying target after Ayr win
Blenheim Brook now heads to the Festival
""Ideally he'd like softer ground but you'd hope he'd handle it all right over that trip."
Blenheim Brook booked himself a ticket to next month's Cheltenham Festival with a fine performance in the novice chase at Ayr on Monday, the highlight of a treble for trainer Lucinda Russell.
Blenheim Brook has yet to finish outside the first two since tackling fences and he was facing [2.08] favourite Lie Forrit (Timeform chase rating of 128+, but hurdles rating of 150) for the second time this season having come off second best when the pair clashed at Kelso in December.
But it was a different story this time around, with [5.34] chance Blenheim Brook always travelling the better of the two under Peter Buchanan and quickening clear between the final couple of fences.
"Our horse has obviously improved a lot since Kelso. I still think Lie Forrit is a pretty good horse and there isn't a lot between them," said Russell.
"Blenheim Brook is really establishing himself as a stayer and after seeing him do that today, I think we'll go for the four miler (National Hunt Chase, for which he currently trades at [32.0]) at Cheltenham.
"Ideally he'd like softer ground but you'd hope he'd handle it all right over that trip."
Lucia Bay kicked off the treble in the opening mares' novice hurdle, victoriously running to a rating of 117+.
The [2.77] shot had the measure of market leader Mae's Choice from the turn for home and although she fluffed her lines at the third last, she was soon back on the bridle and eased to a three-and-three-quarter-length win under Campbell Gillies.
"She gave us a bit of a fright at the third last but I'm really pleased with her and she seems to be progressing, which is great," Russell continued.
"The mares' final at Newbury would be an obvious race to look at with her."
Russell and Buchanan completed a fine day's work as Quacity ([8.94]) beat his rivals comprehensively in the handicap chase for novices, despite hitting an in-running high of [21.0].
"That will have done his confidence good," the trainer added.
"He's a big, strong horse and he barges his way through his obstacles a bit, but he's a nice novice chaser."
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