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Title-chasing Paul Nicholls records Ascot double

Paul Nicholls kept up his championship charge by saddling a double at Ascot on Sunday.

The Ditcheat handler is closing in on his 13th title, with over £2.1 million in the bank so far this term, although Nicky Henderson, Dan Skelton and most notably Willie Mullins are all in contention with Aintree’s Grand National meeting on the horizon.

Nicholls was on the mark with both Chavez (13-8 favourite) in the Peter O’Sullevan 2022 Lambourn Open Day Maiden Hurdle and Danny Kirwan (5-2) in the Soil Science Handicap Chase, with Harry Cobden partnering both victors.

Of Danny Kirwan, the rider said: “He’s very ground dependent, anything other than good, it sort of affects his wind.

“He was a pleasure to ride today, he jumped from fence to fence. He travelled well, he was a bit long two out to be honest, I thought there was an extra one there but the horse knew better and he’s won nicely.”

Cobden feels Nicholls is in a good position to retain his title with a strong squad on course for Aintree.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “Fingers crossed we can win another championship. Normally we come out of Cheltenham 200 or 300 grand behind. Although we don’t have the horses we probably once had, I think we’re about 200 grand in front and we’ve got a great team going to Aintree.

“I’m not saying we’ve got lots of quality, but we’ve got lots of horses going there with a chance.”

Cobden then made it a treble on the day as he steered Elegant Escape (4-1) to victory in the Racing To School Veterans’ Handicap Chase.

Trained by Colin Tizzard, the 10-year-old secured his first win since landing the 2018 Welsh Grand National as he held off Wandrin Star by a length and a half.

Gary Moore was another in double form at the Berkshire track’s final jumps card of the campaign, with Fifty Ball (6-5 favourite) spearheading the trainer’s brace under Niall Houlihan in the Memberships At Ascot Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Moore then combined with son Jamie to land the Garth Hunt Pony Club Novices’ Handicap Chase with 11-4 shot Golden Boy Grey.

Krypton Gold (28-1) bagged the Colts & Fillies Club Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for Stuart Edmunds and Charlie Hammond, while Law Of Gold surprised Nicholls’ 8-15 favourite in winning a two-horse race for the closing British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal Open Hunters’ Chase.

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