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Fenton delight as Dunguib shows Champion potential

Dunguib booked his ticket for the Champion Hurdle with victory on his reappearance in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran yesterday.

Philip Fenton's charge won two Grade Ones as a novice last year before coming unstuck when a hot favourite at Cheltenham, finishing only third behind Menorah in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

He subsequently failed to cut the mustard when upped to full company at Punchestown in April and he was having his first start since that comprehensive beating at the hands of Hurricane Fly.

The eight-year-old was still sent off the 8/11 favourite for this Grade Two event though and he looked a little ring-rusty as Brian O'Connell let him hack around at the back of the field as Luska Lad set the rhythm.

However, his jumping improved as the pace turned up a notch at halfway and he was travelling sweetly two-out as he moved upsides. Luska Lad made a good race of it though and they were together coming to the last but a good leap from Dunguib sealed the win and he pulled three and a half lengths clear.

Fenton was delighted to see Dunguib get back on track and the Cheltenham Festival is now on his agenda again.

"I'm very pleased with that on a number of counts. Firstly it was good to get his first run of the season under his belt," said the trainer. "Secondly, he was an extremely fit horse five or six weeks ago and while he recovered from his infection (which resulted in a bad blood count), each week we were seeing improvement in him.

"We'll go straight for the Champion Hurdle now and today will keep the dream alive for another while."

Rubi Light struck for home early in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase and his early run resulted in a 10-length verdict. The six-year-old was already a winner over fences in France when joining Robbie Hennessy's team and has proved a little tricky to place as a result.

However, Andrew Lynch was positive throughout on the 7/1 shot and after pushing on at halfway, he had too much of an advantage over 5/4 favourite Roberto Goldback and came home a comfortable victor.

"We had a few quid on him at 200/1 for the Ryanair Chase yesterday and that race is now a big possibility," Hennessy said. "He'll also be entered in a few handicaps but may now be too highly rated."

Tawaagg (11/10f) scored a poignant success for Willie Mullins in the opening Ronan Lawlor Memorial Beginners Chase. The race was named in honour of the young rider, who was a good friend of the Mullins family and died following a fall on the gallops a year ago.

Elsewhere, Riverside Theatre made light of Nicky Henderson's concerns over his ability on soft ground to secure a first Grade One success in the Betfair Ascot Chase.

The 11/10 favourite was paying a hefty compliment to his stablemate Long Run, which beat him comfortably in last month's King George VI Chase, as he came 10 lengths clear of Gauvain. The race was marred by the death of Paul Nicholls' promising Pride Of Dulcote, which broke a leg when falling early on the final circuit.

Riverside Theatre has excelled on flat tracks and seized the £84,000 first prize in an instant as he pulled away from Gauvain. Henderson, who shared a 14/1 four-timer with jockey Barry Geraghty, said: "We hadn't been thinking of going to Cheltenham and we were going to wait for Aintree, so we decided to run."

Nicholls had been looking to prepare Pride Of Dulcote for a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup but has now lost a second top-class horse this term after the death of Twist Magic.

At Haydock, Silver By Nature defied top weight to win the totesport.com Grand National Trial for the second year running. Lucinda Russell's grey was cut to 14/1 from 25/1 with totesport for the big race itself at Aintree in April.

Sunday Indo Sport