Apple’s Shakira maintained her unbeaten record with an effortless victory in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham.
After having taken a Grade Two at the track on her debut for Nicky Henderson last month, the three-year-old readily brushed aside Nube Negra by three and a half lengths under Barry Geraghty.
Apple’s Shakira is now the general 4-1 favourite about winning the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Henderson said of the 1-10 winner said: “It was good. A little bit more cover would help as she was a bit keen.
“She has woken up quite a bit at home since her first run. She just came away nicely and jumped very well. She is very slick.
“I think you have got to like everything she has done. She had to do that when your are that price. ”
Kilbricken Storm wore down the front-running Count Meribel to claim top honours in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Trainer Colin Tizzard said of the 3-1 shot: “He cost £21,000 at the Doncaster Sales and he has just won at Cheltenham.
“It is lovely to do that. I never thought he would do this. I thought he would be a nice little handicapper.
“We don’t want to leave him all season to finish 10th at the Festival as there are nice pots about.”
Despite being sent off the 10-1 outsider of four, the Neil Mulholland-trained six-year-old put in a near foot-perfect round of jumping to cross the line three and three-quarters of a length clear of Coo Star Sivola.
Mulholland said: “He likes to come off a nice strong pace. Noel (Fehily) said he warmed up nicely. He might go to the JLT and we could look at that.”
Gino Trail held of all challengers to claim a game front-running success in the Junior Jumpers Handicap Chase.
The Kerry Lee-trained 10-year-old, who won at Wetherby on his penultimate start, maintained a good gallop from the outset before battling on bravely to repel Bun Doran by a length and a quarter in the hands of Harry Skelton.
Lee said of the 7-2 winner: “We have been under a foot of snow and I’ve not been able to put the piece of work I wanted to him on Tuesday but I thought he was fit enough to come here.
“I am not making any silly spring targets for a horse that turns 11 next month.”
Runner-up to the high-class On The Blind Side here last month, the five-year-old looked set to win comfortably after she travelled smoothly into the lead.
Momella was, however, made to pull out all the stops to see off River Arrow by half a length.