Garde La Victoire and Richard Johnson  Image reproduced with the kind permission of Cheltenham Racecourse

Garde La Victoire and Richard Johnson
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Cheltenham Racecourse

Garde La Victoire impressed and asserted his class once again up the Cheltenham hill, when winning the Grade 2 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase by two and a half lengths from Fox Norton for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson.

The French-bred six-year-old has now won both his starts over fences. He took the StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle on this day in 2014.

Hobbs said: “At least today he had more respect for his fences than he did at Uttoxeter [when winning there on October 30] where he was over-brave and didn’t give one or two of them enough respect.

“Today he ran as though he wants further; he probably does, but he’ll aim for the Arkle [Racing Post-sponsored two-mile novices’ chase championship on March 15], I think.

“I don’t have any immediate plans beyond today; it was good to get this one out of the way. There isn’t another two-mile novices’ chase here until March, I don’t think, but I’ll have a look and see.”

Richard Johnson was able to put his mishap in the first race behind him, when he came off Drumlee Sunset who whipped around at the start, and get back in the winner’s enclosure on Garde La Victoire in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Chase.

A classy hurdler last season, Garde La Victoire is no stranger to winning at this meeting, landing the Greatwood Hurdle 12 months ago. The six-year-old was tested by Fox Norton today, but was able to find more and more for Johnson up the hill and clinch a two and half length victory.

Johnson said: “He’s still got to learn his job, he finds it quite easy because he has loads of natural scope. He’s almost got to learn to get tightish into one and find where his feet are. He just travels so well, in a novice chase you are never going to go a hard gallop, and I think with him the harder they go the better.

“I am pleased with him, especially as he was a bit awkward to the second last but when I asked him, he was great and he kept going right up the top of the hill. He’s a good jumper and he’s got loads of class.”

Fox Norton leads Garde La Victoire over the last Image reproduced with the kind permission of Cheltenham Racecourse

Fox Norton leads Garde La Victoire over the last
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Cheltenham Racecourse

Looking ahead to The Festival, Johnson said: “I think he will be entered in the two and a half mile (JLT Novices’ Chase) and the two mile (Racing Post Arkle). It’s nice to have the option, especially on good, fast ground, but you would have to make the decision at the time. He’s the nicest two-mile chaser I’ve got to ride.”

Jockey Noel Fehily could offer no excuses after the Neil Mulholland-trained Fox Norton was beaten into second place by Garde La Victoire in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Sunday afternoon.

Fox Norton leads Dormello Mo, Garde La Victoire and Calipto early on Image reproduced with the kind permission of Cheltenham Racecourse

Fox Norton leads Dormello Mo, Garde La Victoire and Calipto early on
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Cheltenham Racecourse

Fox Norton travelled and jumped supremely well under Fehily for the majority of the race but couldn’t quite manage to fend off the challenge of the winner as the pair battled up in the hill, eventually going down by two and a half lengths.

Fehily felt that the 4lb penalty that Fox Norton had to give Garde La Victoire was probably the difference in the end.

“He’s jumped and travelled superbly,” said Fehily.

“I wouldn’t say he was outpaced after the last but rather that we were beaten by the better horse giving him 4lb.”

Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies finished a further half a length back in third on Calipto and felt that the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding would be a lot better over further.

“He’s run well but it was hard work for a lot of the race,” said the jockey.

“We were outpaced for a lot of the way before staying on again at the end. He needs further really and will be much better over a longer trip.”