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Adagio strikes Grade One gold with Finale success

Adagio proved too strong for hot favourite Nassalam in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.

Having won by 59 and 49 lengths respectively on his first two starts in Britain at Fontwell, Gary Moore’s Nassalam was the even-money favourite to complete his hat-trick on his step up to Grade One level.

However, David Pipe’s Adagio also brought strong form to the table – winning two of his first three starts over obstacles, including a short-priced victory at Cheltenham last month.

With long-time lead Bannister beginning to falter from the home turn, it turned into a three-way fight between Nassalam, Adagio and the Paul Nicholls-trained French recruit Houx Gris, before the former pair turned the screw and drew clear.

It was clear on the run to the final flight that Adagio had more to give than the market leader and he galloped all the way to the line to score by two and a half lengths under Tom Scudamore.

Pipe said: “It was a very good performance and the first two were favourite and second-favourite, so it’s rock solid form.

“I think we learnt a lot when he got beaten by Duffle Coat at Cheltenham in November. Last time at Cheltenham we rode him with more restraint and we did again today.

“We hadn’t declared him for this race when it was originally due to be run over Christmas. We came here today hoping it wouldn’t be quite as bad, it’s only soft ground rather than heavy and he’s handled that well.”

Coral cut Adagio to 12-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Pipe added: “We were coming here today to find out whether we were going for the Triumph Hurdle or the Fred Winter. It will be the Triumph Hurdle now.

“He’s always gone well at home – he’s got an engine. He was a bit quirky early on, but he’s improved since he’s been gelded.

“We’ll see how he comes out of today. Maybe he’ll go straight to Cheltenham, or maybe he’ll have one more run somewhere.

“We’ll enjoy today and have a think about it next week.”

Moore eager to assess Nassalam’s Grade One credentials

Gary Moore is delighted to have a second chance with Nassalam in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on Saturday.

The four-year-old gelding would have missed the Grade One contest had it been run when originally planned over Christmas as he was under a cloud.

The meeting was abandoned but was rescheduled, subject to an 8am inspection, giving Nassalam the opportunity to show just how good he is.

The French import has won his two starts for Moore, both at Fontwell, by 59 and 49 lengths. The opposition may have been moderate, but Nassalam could not have been more impressive.

Moore is as keen as anyone to see how the horse fares against much better rivals.

“He wasn’t right when it was meant to be run,” the West Sussex trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“With the Irish not being able to come over, he might have a decent chance, hopefully.

“He’s quite a big horse and strong as well with a fantastic mind. He’s very straightforward to train.

“He is just a very nice horse. Hopefully they will be able to run on Saturday so we can see how good he is.”

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Adagio has made a good start to his hurdling career with two victories and a second from three starts.

His trainer David Pipe is just hoping he can cope with the likely heavy ground.

“He’s done well this season. He might not want the ground as easy as it what it will probably will be, but he goes there with a good chance, hopefully,” said the Nicholashayne handler.

Adagio clears the last to win at Cheltenham and now tries his hand at Grade One level at Chepstow
Adagio clears the last to win at Cheltenham and now tries his hand at Grade One level at Chepstow (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Fergal O’Brien is happy to give Elham Valley his chance in a Grade One after making a successful hurdling debut at Sandown last month.

The Cheltenham trainer has been happy with the horse in the meantime and has no concerns about the ground.

“He had his Sandown form franked as the horse of Gary Moore’s (Hudson De Grugy) has come out and won since,” said O’Brien.

“It wasn’t until speaking to you boys (press) that we thought about this race but, having spoken to both Paddy (Brennan) and the owners, we know he will love the ground and track, so we decided to give it a go.

“He is a lovely little horse and is a joy to do anything with. He loves his jumping and we schooled him on Thursday and he was electric from one side to the other.

“Where he will finish I don’t know, but we will let him take his chance and he will give it his best.”

Paul Nicholls has a fascinating runner in Houx Gris, who is being pitched at a high level on his first start in the UK.

The four-year-old won at the second attempt over hurdles in France for Sylvain Dehez begore joining the Ditcheat handler.

Paul Nicholls gives Haux Gris his UK debut in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow
Paul Nicholls gives Houx Gris his UK debut in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

“He is an interesting recruit from France who has been pleasing us since he arrived early last month. We bought him at the sales early in November shortly after winning at Auteuil,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“I don’t normally run newcomers so quickly, but he settled in straight away and has adapted beautifully to our routine.

“He is working great, seems to be improving and looks to be a smart juvenile. I really like what I see and just hope he has acclimatised enough to give a good account of himself.”

Trainer Tom George is hoping Bannister gets the chance to run at Chepstow
Trainer Tom George is hoping Bannister gets the chance to run at Chepstow (Simon Cooper/PA)

Bannister’s last two starts have been in France, but he is back running close to home. He has also been declared for the opening juvenile hurdle at Kempton, but trainer Tom George would prefer to run him at the Welsh track.

“The plan is to go Chepstow if it’s on,” said the Slad handler.

“He’s picked up some nice prize money in France. He’s very much a novice chaser for next season, but he has been running well in France on his last couple of runs.”