Imperial Aura advertised his claims for further Cheltenham Festival glory with a decisive victory in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot.
Stepping up to Grade Two company from Listed level, Kim Bailey’s charge – a winner at the showpiece meeting in March last year – put in an almost foot-perfect round of jumping to cruise home by five lengths at the 13-8 favourite.
Bryony Frost was eager to set the gallop aboard Black Corton in the two-mile-five-furlong contest – but David Bass had Imperial Aura on their heels and had just edged in front before Frost was unseated with eight fences still to jump.
While Real Steel briefly hit the front at one stage, Imperial Aura always looked to be in control and barring a slightly haphazard leap at the penultimate obstacle, Bailey’s runner never looked likely to be beaten.
Itchy Feet looked under pressure with three to jump, but stayed on to snatch second, with Real Steel a further two and a half lengths back in third.
Imperial Aura is now as low as 7-1 with Paddy Power for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in March, with Coral going 8-1.
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