Garde La Victoire wins Welsh Champion
Garde La Victoire put the disappointments of last season behind him when holding off Welsh Shadow in the Walters Group Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las.
Garde La Victoire: Won at Ffos Las
The race was moved in the calendar in an attempt to attract a better field in the hope the ground would not be as soft as it has been in the past, but while the meeting started on decent ground, torrential rain during racing turned conditions soft.
Always considered a good ground horse, Garde La Victoire tracked Hassle before being left in front a long way out, but Richard Johnson always looked to be travelling better than Davy Russell on the favourite and the 11-4 chance was driven out to win by nearly two lengths.
After falling at Cheltenham and Aintree, the winner will now return to fences.
Johnson said: "To be fair he's got stronger since last year.
"After we had the disappointment of two falls at the Festivals it was nice to have a run over hurdles before he goes back chasing.
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"He could stay hurdling but there's a chance he could go to the Haldon Gold Cup, if he doesn't take to fences again he could go back hurdling.
"We always thought he wanted better ground but it's very wet today and he got through it well."
Winning trainer Philip Hobbs told At The Races: "He's a star, a gorgeous horse and Richard thinks he's stronger so hopefully he'll take to fences better.
"After that he might go up to around 158 but that's still a long way off a Champion Hurdle so chasing has to be the way forward, we just cross fingers he jumps better than last year.
"He's a bit over-brave at times, but the plan is the Haldon Gold Cup."
Hobbs and Johnson also won the Volvo Mares' "National Hunt" Maiden Hurdle with Copper Kay, although the 1-6 favourite made hard work of it.
"Copper Kay was satisfactory, I suppose, more workmanlike, she'll go for a mares' novice hurdle at Newbury a fortnight on Wednesday," said Hobbs.
The pair also struck with the promising Defi Du Seuil (1-4 favourite) Pennant Walters Juvenile Maiden Hurdle.
"He shows us plenty at home so it was nice to get that out of the way," said Hobbs.
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