Astra motors to Veterans joy
Astracad made a winning seasonal debut in the Glenfarclas Veterans' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, a race staged in place of the cross-country chase which was abandoned earlier in the week.
Astracad (right) beats Ericht in the Veterans' Chase at Cheltenham's Open Meeting
Trained by local handler Nigel Twiston-Davies, the popular chaser knows the undulations of Prestbury Park better than most having had 23 three previous outings at the track, and he recorded his third course win with a hard-fought victory over Nicky Henderson's Ericht.
Astracad was sent off the well-backed 100/30 favourite under 3lb claimer Jamie Bargary and was travelling strongly on the heels of front-runner Dunraven Storm throughout the first half of the race before taking up the running approaching the fourth-last fence.
Bargary allowed the 10-year-old to take command at the next and although Ericht (9/2) came alongside to lay down a strong challenge over the final two obstacles, Astracad stayed on strongly to score by a length and a half.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Realt Mor (4/1), who briefly looked like latching onto the front pair coming down the hill, didn't find enough for pressure to trouble the principals and finished a further seven lengths back in third.
Twiston-Davies said: "He has been a lovely horse all his life. It is a very exciting win.
"He has done superbly. I didn't think he was fit enough and I put everyone away saying he had no chance.
"Willy Twiston-Davies, my technical advisor, said he was not fit – maybe he is best when he is not fit!
"We will stick to veterans' races with him now."
Bargary told Racing UK: "He's pretty genuine and I don't think it really matters where he is in a race, he gave me a great ride. He's just a lovely all-round horse.
"Everything suited him today and he's just a gentleman really. The ground is on the soft side of good – a little bit dead maybe – but he loved it out there today."
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