Menorah lays down marker

Philip Hobbs can look forward to plotting a route back to Cheltenham for next year's Champion Hurdle after Menorah's battling qualities saw him take the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle under top weight.

Menorah emerged victorious from a mighty fight in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the last Festival, a performance which saw him saddled with 11st 12lb here, but he was given quite a scare by the joint bottom-weight Bothy, who only finished a neck behind.

Richard Johnson searched for the quickest ground at the rain-softened venue, tracking wide and looking on the verge of an impressive victory when cruising past Bothy at the second-last, but his rival came back after appearing beaten and very nearly upset the odds.

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Hobbs saddled Rooster Booster to win this Grade Three handicap in November of 2001 before the grey went on to Champion honours the following March and the new showpiece sponsors Stan James offer 12-1 (from 16s) about the Diana Whateley-owned gelding.

"It was a very good performance, especially as he had to go so wide as the ground was definitely better wider, and ideally he doesn't want it too soft," said Hobbs.

Johnson added of the 6-1 shot: "I'm very impressed. With top weight today on that ground I thought it would be hard for him. To be fair to him, he stumbled at the back of the last. If he hadn't done that I think he would have won a bit easier.

"It's just fantastic to have a horse like this for the future."

On the same card, Gauvain leapt into contention for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with a stunning comeback victory. Returning after 19 months off the track and having his first race since joining trainer Nick Williams from Charlie Mann, the eight-year-old sprang a 16-1 surprise in the Sinbad Testimonial 2010/2011 Chase.

He showed no signs of rustiness as he galloped on strongly to beat Forpadydeplasterer by four lengths to earn a 14-1 quote for the Champion Chase at the Festival from Ladbrokes. Forpadydeplasterer is set to step up in trip after finishing second for the seventh successive time.

Grands Crus (5-1) came out on top for the David Pipe stable in the Paddy Power Intermediate Handicap Hurdle. Tom Scudamore sent the grey past For Non Stop before the turn in the straight and bounded clear to score by six lengths.

Snow Fairy, Ed Dunlop's exceptional dual Oaks winner, landed a huge pot in Japan by winning the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup.

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Ryan Moore's mount scooped a bonus totally over 1.4million at Kyoto racecourse when turning in a performance of supreme authority.The three-year-old failed to stay the St Leger trip on her last start, but was in her element in this one-mile-three-furlong Grade One encounter.

Snow Fairy had four lengths in hand of Meisho Beluga at the line, with local favourite Apapane third.