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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 February 2008, 15:00 GMT
Denman powers to Newbury victory
Sam Thomas on Denman
Denman is set to take on Kauto Star at Cheltenham
Cheltenham Gold Cup second favourite Denman continued his preparations for next month's Festival by easily winning the Aon Chase at Newbury.

The 1-4 favourite, ridden by Sam Thomas, overcame a slight mistake at the fifth last to claim his fourth win at Newbury.

Denman always looked powerful, with Ollie Magern the only horse able to cope with his pace.

Once he went clear on the back straight he powered on to a 20-length win.

The success gave trainer Paul Nicholls his fourth successive win on the card after Pasco, Ornais and Master Minded struck in the first three races.

Nicholls, who also trains the Gold Cup favourite Kauto Star, who will be ridden by Ruby Walsh, was pleased with the display of his horse, who has now won 11 of his 12 races to date.

"We know he'll improve a fair bit for that, it will just tighten him up. That was just what we wanted," he said.

"Sam says he was taking the mickey out of him most of the way around. He will just keep improving - mind you he will need to.

"That will be it now and we'll ready him at home for five weeks on Friday."

Ruby Walsh on Master Minded
Master Minded is well-fancied for the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Thomas added: "It was perfect and exactly how I imagined it would be. He jumped perfectly and travelled really well.

"He had to win like that if he's going to go to the Gold Cup as the second favourite. "There will be a pair of exceptional horses turning up on the day. Hopefully me and the horse and Ruby and Kauto can stay in one piece."

Earlier, Master Minded put in a strong display to beat last year's Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Voy Por Ustedes and win the Game Spirit Chase.

Ruby Walsh had the five-year-old, who is also owned by Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith, in front from the start and he upped the pace a long way from home.

Voy Por Ustedes was not able to close the gap and the winner's strong jumping helped him triumph by five lengths.

He is now battling for favourtism for next month's Champion Chase with stablemate Twist Magic.

Smith said: "He's just a great little horse. When we bought him Paul reminded me he wasn't eligible for the Arkle, so I said let's go for the Champion Chase then!

"He still could be a bit novicey for that but I'd like to go. We'll see."


Aon Chase (Newbury)
1. Denman (S Thomas) 1-4 Fav
2. Regal Heights (R Walsh) 11-1
3. Celestial Gold (T J Murphy) 10-1
4 ran

Game Spirit Chase
1. Master Minded (R Walsh) 7-4
2. Voy Por Ustedes (R Thornton) Evens Fav
3. Mahogany Blaze (P J Brennan) 17-2
6 ran. Dist: 5, 21



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