Alasi holds Court
Alasi ambushed what was anticipated to be a routine Cheltenham Festival warm-up for Champion Court in a graduation chase at Kempton.
Martin Keighley's Champion Court, who had produced a tigerish effort when eventually fourth on his previous visit to the course in the King George on Boxing Day, was limp in comparison here as the 4-9 favourite.
Alain Cawley attempted to make all the running but found himself working hard to stay in front while Dominic Elsworth and Alasi (9-1) loomed dangerously alongside and he eventually conceded the £12,500 prize by a neck.
The Paul Webber-trained winner remains one of the best National Hunt racing mares, finishing fourth to Quevega over hurdles at Cheltenham last spring, but Keighley was adamant this was not Champion Court's true form.
"He (Cawley) said he didn't feel like he normally does. Normally he takes you there, but that wasn't him today," said Keighley.
"He had a hard race in the King George, and maybe he would be better with a lead now rather than doing the donkey work.
"I'll take him home and have him looked at, and we've got five weeks until the Ryanair Chase. He's definitely better than that."
Elsworth was keen not to take too much credit and said: "She might be flattered by the form as possibly Champion Court didn't turn up, but she jumped very well and did it nicely."
Owner Shully Liebermann said: "She will definitely go to Cheltenham and we might have to take on Quevega again. It does open up options, it's just a shame there isn't a mares' chase there."
Zoe Davison and her team were overwhelmed to see 12-year-old Nozic (4-1) win for the first time this season in the Racing Plus Chase Day 23.02.13 Handicap Chase after a string of game efforts in defeat.
Simon Clare, one of the members of the The Lump O'clock Syndicate, said: "There's a race for him at Sandown in a couple of weeks, and if he could go up enough in the weights, we'd hope he could sneak into the Grand Annual at Cheltenham."
Nicky Henderson, who was left aghast by the cruel loss of Champion Hurdle hope Darlan in a fall at Doncaster on Monday, was again a strong force at one of his favourite tracks with a 393-1 treble.
One came in the same JP McManus silks as Tony McCoy forced Prince Of Pirates (13-2) a length and a quarter ahead in the kempton.co.uk Handicap Chase.
"We have all got to pick ourselves up again," said the trainer.
"(Prince Of Pirates) wants better ground. He won't go to Cheltenham but there will be something for him in the summer."
Ericht (13-2) kept smart company before a period in the wilderness but has started to offer more this year as he added the TurfTV Novices' Hurdle to a recent jumpers' bumper at the course.
Henderson said: "He is just getting the hang of things now. He didn't like very soft ground at Newbury earlier in the season and we'll play about before he jumps fences next year."
McCoy and 5-6 favourite Master Malt had to give best to Barry Geraghty and Tradewinds (6-1) in the Racing UK maiden bumper.
"We ran him here first time and he raced with the choke out but still ran well. He didn't act around Lingfield and it was great he dropped the bit today for Barry," said Henderson, who did not dismiss a tilt at the Champion Bumper out of hand.
Islandmagee (7-2 favourite) rallied to land the kempton.co.uk Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle despite a mistake at the last while Jamie Poulton's Farbreaga (11-2) was similarly game in the Racing UK Novices' Handicap Hurdle.