Nicholls charge lays down Festival marker

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls

Khalidi romps to victory under Frankie Dettori.   Picture by:  Malcolm Wells

Khalidi a game winner of Cocked Hat Stakes

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Definity thrust himself into Cheltenham Festival contention with a professional triu-mph at Fontwell yesterday.

The eight-year-old held off the once smart hurdler Straw Bear to win the Follow chancelloroftheformchecker.co.uk At Cheltenham Beginners’ Chase by six lengths.

The market leaders were a further 77 lengths clear of the field, as the contest proved to be the match pundits had expected.

Definity, the 4/7 favourite who is trained by Paul Nicholls, is entered in both the RSA Chase and Jewson Novices’ Chase at the Festival.

And en route to Prestbury Park he could return to Fontwell on National Spirit Hurdle day.

The meeting on Sunday, February 27 features a valuable chase won in the past by other Nicholls in-mates such as Star De Mohaison, who went on to win the RSA Chase, and Take The Breeze.

Straw Bear’s second hints he still retains the talent to win a beginners’ chase for patient trainer Nick Gifford.

Elsewhere on the card, Accordintolawrence won the chancelloroftheformchecker.co.uk Adjusted Form Ratings Novices’ Hurdle at 7/1.

He defied a penalty to beat 40/1-shot Cottage Acre into second place after 9/4 favourite Raya Star fell two out.

The first of four handicaps – the Other Nationals Project At chancelloroftheformchecker.co.uk Handicap Chase – went to Swainson at 33/1.

Balustrade was the shock 50/1 winner of the Chancellor of The Formchecker Handicap Hurdle, while the chancelloroftheformchecker.co.uk Champion Jockey of Fontwell Handicap Chase was won by Randjo at 9/2.

The penultimate race – the Big Jim Bookmakers, The Chancellor’s Choice Handicap Hurdle – was won by Pulborough jockey Leighton Aspell on Dune Shine at 20/1.

And the bumper – the final race – was won by the 8/1 Beattie Green as leading contenders Batonnier and Tieptiep failed to land a blow.

As the countdown to next month’s National Spirit Hurdle meeting hots up, Fontwell have been named finalists in the racecourse of the year category at the 2011 Betview Awards.

This award is presented to the racecourse which provides the best experience for the betting and racing public.

The West Sussex venue are up against Lingfield and Irish course Punchestown.

‘We are delighted to have been short-listed for this prestigious industry award,’ said general manager Phil Bell.

‘Last year’s opening of the new 888sport Premier Grandstand took our investment into new facilities to more than £8.5m in the last nine years.

‘We now have bars, restaurants and other public facilities that compare favourably with those at any racecourse in the country.

‘We have also worked hard to improve the fixture list and now have the perfect balance of midweek afternoon meetings ideal for hospitality as well as customer friendly weekend and evening fixtures, which attract large attendances.’

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