Commander is chief

Imperial Commander was cut by VC Bet from 33s to 25-1 for the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after a fluent success at Newcastle yesterday.

Imperial Commander was cut by VC Bet from 33s to 25-1 for the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after a fluent success at Newcastle yesterday.

Tony Evans was given a dream ride from the start and eased his mount to a 19-length verdict in the St James Security Novices' Hurdle.

Evans looked a picture of confidence from the outset and only had eventual runner-up Jass for company for most of the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

But once that rival began to tire, the 11-10 favourite asserted full control three out and breezed to an eye-catching victory in what could prove an informative novices hurdle.

Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge already has winning form at Cheltenham when he won on his debut in a bumper last October.

Although disappointing in a Grade Two race back at Prestbury Park in December, connections feel he is a far grander proposition than that sixth-placed finish to Flight Leader indicated.

Evans said: "The ground and the trip were completely against him last time but he did that well.

"He's entitled to go to Cheltenham on that run and you would be half-confident."

Meanwhile, Cedrus Libani put up a game effort in the strong head-wind to take the WBX.COM Novices' Hurdle over two miles.

Howard Johnson's gelding was found out over two miles six furlongs at Ayr last time but came into his own over this shorter trip.

Paddy Brennan only had to keep Cedrus Libani up to his work to win by two-and-a-half lengths, with The Ring and Ferdy Murphy's odds-on favourite Naiad Du Misselot dead-heating for second.

Murphy went one better 30 minutes later when Barton Sun broke his maiden tag at the 15th time of asking in the Springfield Motor Group Novices' Handicap Chase.

Graham Lee made smooth progress two out and booted the 3-1 shot to a one-and-a-half-length call from Jimmys Duky.

"As long as the handicapper doesn't go too mad, he would win again," said Murphy.

Master Sebastian defied top weight with a gritty triumph in the Springfield Honda Handicap Chase to initiate the first leg of a double for Lucinda Russell and Peter Buchanan.

Breakwater House (11-2) then defeated Robbie Dye by a short head in an exciting finish to the James Fletcher Marquee and Pavilion Hire Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

"It's a bit embarrassing really but that was my first ever bumper winner," smiled Russell.

"He's a lovely horse and is still as green as anything."

Connections of El Andaluz praised Tom Dreaper after the rider astutely judged the pace to run away with the WBX.COM Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle.

Dreaper made all aboard Brian Ellison's charge.

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