Johnson so pleased with Victoire

Richard Johnson has confirmed Exeter's Haldon Gold Cup as being the plan for last weekend's Ffos Las winner Garde La Victoire.

Garde La Victoire: Heads back over fences at Exeter now.

Garde La Victoire put the disappointments of last season, including falls in big novice chases at Cheltenham and Aintree, behind him when holding off Welsh Shadow in the Walters Group Welsh Champion Hurdle, a race run in attritional conditions.

Successful jockey Johnson told his Betway blog: "It was a very smart performance. He definitely seems to have matured over the summer. He's got better every season and I really like the way he did on Saturday.

"Welsh Shadow was a decent novice last year so giving him 8lb was never going to be easy.

"Garde La Victoire will be well into the 150's over hurdles now and the Haldon Gold Cup in a couple of weeks is the next target for him.

"I know he fell at the two big spring festivals, be he actually jumped really well last season. He jumped the fourth last well in the JLT and just knuckled on landing. He then didn't really feel himself at Aintree.

"We'll have more of an idea about where we're going to go with him after Exeter where the stiff two miles should be perfect for him.

"He's definitely one of my big hopes for the campaign. It's only his second season over fences and there should be plenty more to come."

Garde La Victoire was one of three winners on the day for Johnson, who also a positive assessment to make about his other two scorers.

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"Defi De Seuil proved in the juvenile hurdle that he's a nice type," he said. "You can't take anything major out of the race from a form perspective, but he jumped and travelled well. He's got a nice attitude.

"He showed in France that he goes on very soft ground and that he stays well. That will stand him in good stead for the winter, particularly if we have another wet one.

"It was a great introduction for him and good to find out a bit more about him. Philip [Hobbs] will probably look for a slighter better race.

"He ticks all the right boxes and softer ground should play to his strengths.

"I'd say that Copper Kay jumped no better than adequately on her hurdling debut. In fairness, she was better when she was really racing up the home straight.

"I'd hope that a better quality race will bring out some more improvement in her. She showed in her bumpers that she stays very well, so a step up in trip wouldn't be an issue.

"She's a work in progress, but with a bit more practise you should see a more polished performance. It was good to get her back out."

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