Tag Archives: star

Alex Ferguson sends Manchester United scouts to watch Radamel Falcao

Fergie steps up move for 47m Falcao as United send chief scout to watch Atletico striker score a double

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

10:50 GMT, 15 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:17 GMT, 15 April 2013

Manchester United watched Radamel Falcao score twice for Atletico Madrid on Sunday night as Sir Alex Ferguson ponders a summer deal.

Sportsmail revealed last week that Ferguson is considering a 47million deal – that could involve Javier Hernandez as part of a swap – to land the Colombia striker.

As United won 2-0 at Stoke, Ferguson sent his chief scout Jim Lawlor to watch Falcao strike a brace in their 5-0 thumping at home to Granada.

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Wanted: Radamel Falcao (left) in action during Atletico Madrid's victory over Granada

Wanted: Radamel Falcao (left) in action during Atletico Madrid's victory over Granada

Wanted: Radamel Falcao (left) in action during Atletico Madrid's victory over Granada

Wanted: Radamel Falcao (left) in action during Atletico Madrid's victory over Granada

Star man: Falcao struck a brace in the triumph for Atletico at the Vicente Calderon

Lawlor is likely to return with
glowing reports of a striker who is also interesting Chelsea and
Manchester City, along with Europe's big guns.

Manchester City and Chelsea have both
been strongly linked with Falcao, who has established himself as one of
the world's most prolific marksmen by scoring 56 goals for Atletico
since arriving in Spain from Porto in 2011.

But it is United have
now joined the bidding for the 27-year-old Colombia star and are prepared to
let striker Hernandez move to Madrid as part of the deal.

On his way Javier Hernandez in action against Stoke on Sunday - but he could be off

On his way Javier Hernandez in action against Stoke on Sunday – but he could be off

Give us a hug! Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates with Robin van Persie during the win at Stoke

Give us a hug! Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates with Robin van Persie during the win at Stoke

The Premier League leaders are ready
to meet the 47m buyout clause in Falcao's contract by offering Atletico
27m cash plus Hernandez, who they value at 20m.

If they were to land Falcao it
would be a bitter blow to Chelsea, who thought they were winning the
race to sign him, and City boss Roberto Mancini who believes Robin van
Persie's decision to choose Old Trafford over the Etihad Stadium last
summer has been a key factor in this season's title battle.

However,
any club wanting to sign Falcao will have to resolve an issue of
third-party ownership due to the fact that a company run by former
United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and agent Jorge Mendes
has owned a stake in the player since helping to finance his 34m move
from Porto.

VIDEO: Watch Falcao do what he does best – goalscoring

Heather Watson diagnosed with glandular fever after Miami Open

Concern for weary Watson as British star is diagnosed with glandular fever

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

16:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:51 GMT, 3 April 2013

Heather Watson has been diagnosed with glandular fever.

Blood tests after the Sony Open in Miami revealed traces of the virus and Watson, who is set to be overtaken by Laura Robson as British No 1 next week, has been told to rest and recover.

Watson, 20, is at the tail end of the illness and is not expected to miss any of the summer tournaments.

Virus: Blood tests after the Miami Open last week showed British No.1 Heather Watson had Glandular Fever

Virus: Blood tests after the Miami Open last week showed British No.1 Heather Watson had Glandular Fever

Speaking to the LTA, Watson said: 'I had to do some blood tests after Miami and the results have shown that I have traces of glandular fever (mono) in my system.

'There is no prescription for this other than complete rest but the good news is that the doctors have told me I am at the tail end of the fever.

'This means I have been trying to compete through the symptoms for some time.'

She continued: 'I have been struggling with both training and playing matches and felt so tired and exhausted for months but now that the doctors have found the cause of this, it explains everything that has been happening to me physically and mentally.

Slowed: Watson admitted to feeling 'burnt out' following her first round exit to Ayumi Morita in Miami

Slowed: Watson admitted to feeling 'burnt out' following her first round exit to Ayumi Morita in Miami

'I am actually relieved to know what is wrong so that I can get myself on the mend.

'I hope to recover as soon as possible by resting my body and getting lots of sleep. I already feel better from being at home for a week, and am looking forward to getting back on Tour soon.'

Watson crashed out to Alumina Morita in the first round in the Sony Open in Miami and admitted she was feeling 'burnt out.' She said she would take a break from tennis to recover, but changed her mind the following day.

Recovery: Watson, who will be replaced as British No.1 by Laura Robson next week, has been told to rest

Recovery: Watson, who will be replaced as British No.1 by Laura Robson next week, has been told to rest

Iain Bates, the LTA's head of women's tennis, said: 'First of all, get well soon, Heather, from the whole team.

'We all know she'll bounce back better than ever. Heather's focus will be on her recovery, and we will do whatever we can to support Heather and help that process.'

Micah Richards will be given special summer training programme to minimise injury risk

EXCLUSIVE: Man City star Richards will be forced to follow special summer training programme after injury-hit season

.

And City's medical team are devising a specially-designed training plan, aimed primarily at strengthening his injured knee, for Richards to follow during the close season to ensure his body is ready for the rigours of pre-season given he'll have spent virtually an entire season on the sidelines.

Blow: Richards was stretchered off during the game against Swansea

Blow: Richards was stretchered off during the game against Swansea

Richards had hoped to be back playing at the beginning of this month, but his return was delayed after complaining of tightness in his injured knee during the latter stages of his rehabilitation process.

News of Richards' pending return will be a major boost to City manager Roberto Mancini ahead of his side's run-in.

Bayern Munich lead the race to sign Luis Suarez – Liverpool striker"s agent is Pep Guardiola"s brother

Liverpool want to keep Bayern target Suarez… but the bad news is that his agent is Guardiola's BROTHER

By
John Edwards

PUBLISHED:

11:57 GMT, 25 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:03 GMT, 25 March 2013

Bayern Munich are ready to play their trump card in a three-way battle to land Luis Suarez after it emerged that Pep Guardiola's brother is advising the Liverpool striker on his future.

Senior sources at Juventus confirmed their intention to join the bidding for 40million-rated Suarez, while Guardiola's old club Barcelona are also in the frame.

But Serie A leaders Juve have privately
admitted Bayern are in pole position, due to Guardiola's brother Pere
being Suarez's agent.

Race is on: Luis Suarez will be targeted by a number of top clubs this summer

Race is on: Luis Suarez will be targeted by a number of top clubs this summer

Star man: Suarez is currently on national duty with Uruguay ahead of their clash with Chile

Star man: Suarez is currently on national duty with Uruguay ahead of their clash with Chile

Former Barca boss Guardiola has been
promised substantial transfer backing, after agreeing two months ago to
replace Jupp Heynckes at the end of the season, and has earmarked
Liverpool's prolific frontrunner as his main target.

Bayern's seemingly unassailable lead
at the top of the Bundesliga guarantees Champions' League football next
season, while Pere seems certain to nominate the Allianz Arena, should
Suarez seek his advice over choosing a new club in the summer.

Juventus have not given up on the
26-year-old Uruguayan, but there is an acceptance that they are up
against it, given the Guardiola family link and the amounts involved.

With prize money for a Champions'
League semi-final place estimated at 40million, senior figures at Juve
have calculated that they need to reach the last four, at least, to have
a realistic chance of financing a deal.

Bayern are standing in their way, in a
twist that should add extra spice to an eagerly-awaited quarter-final
showdown next month between the two biggest names in Italian and German
football.

Though Suarez has been installed as
Juve's priority target, coach Antonio Conte and director Beppe Marotta
have lined up Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez as an alternative, should
they lose out to Bayern or even Barca in the race for the top prize.

Liverpool still hope to hang on to
Suarez, but are mindful of his longing for Champions' League football
and wary of his agent's possible influence on what promises to be this
summer's most intriguing transfer battle.

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure Breddan Rodgers' star performer

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure Breddan Rodgers' star performer

Tug of war: Guardiola is well positioned to lure this season's star performer for Rodgers

Wasps 24 Northampton 26: Christian Day scores late winner

Wasps 24 Northampton 26: Day breaks hosts' hearts with last-gasp winner

By
Ian Stafford

PUBLISHED:

17:54 GMT, 23 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:11 GMT, 23 March 2013

Northampton 's pack dominated their Wasps counterparts to such an extent in this battle for the play-offs that three Wasps forwards were sent to the sin bin.

But it took Christian Day's finalplay try to steal victory. Stephen Myler still needed to land the simple conversion to confirm the win but Day's score – assisted by returning England star Dylan Hartley, who shoved his team-mate over the line – also earned a bonus point that could prove crucial.

Wasps, seconds away from a remarkable win considering they played with one man down for nearly half an hour and were crushed up front, now find themselves seven points adrift of fourth-placed Northampton.

Lee 'n' easy: Lee Dickinson scores the Saints' second try

Lee 'n' easy: Lee Dickinson scores the Saints' second try

Day's final score summed up a
physical clash between two teams featuring a host of players who either
lost for England last week in Cardiff or who are pushing hard for a
place in the June tour to Argentina.

Day's try resulted from a driving maul as the Wasps forwards spent much of the game going backwards and conceding penalties.

Saints would have been kicking themselves if they had lost, which they nearly did thanks to a second-half comeback from Wasps.

Losing director of rugby Dai Young
said: 'Fair play to Northampton, they had a real weapon in their maul
and they used it. It's hard to play against them with 15 men and even
harder with 14 for much of the game, especially when you don't get the
field position or the ball.

Heading for glory: Elliot Daly (right) of London Wasps scores his team's second try

Heading for glory: Elliot Daly (right) of London Wasps scores his team's second try

'That said, having got our noses in
front, I take issue with the last three penalties awarded to them,
although I'm not saying Saints didn't deserve to win. The bottom line is
that if you can't stop a driving line out you'll struggle.'

Northampton director of rugby Jim
Mallinder was more relieved than happy, saying: 'If you have a weapon
like that, then you use it. We controlled the game but Wasps can score
points quickly.

'We gave away some penalties and almost threw it away. But we got a bonus point win and are now in a good position.'

Snow stopping me: George Pisi evades Daly's tackle

Snow stopping me: George Pisi evades Daly's tackle

The portents were clear from as early
as the eighth minute, when referee David Rose awarded Saints a penalty
try and sent Thomas Rhys Thomas to the bin.

Eight minutes later, Lee Dickson
flopped over after another powerful maul. Wasps hit back through a
long-range Elliott Daly penalty and then a classic Tom Varndell try,
sprinting in from 50 yards to score his 12th of the season and his 72nd
Premiership try in total. Varndell is now only four behind record scorer
Mark Cueto.

Snow joke: Daly lefty dejected after Saints stole the win at the death

Snow joke: Daly lefty dejected after Saints stole the win at the death

A conversion and two penalties from
Stephen Jones meant the home side were only three points down at the
break, despite a Hartley try from yet another destructive maul.

This built into a five-point
advantage after another Jones penalty and a stunning finish from Daly in
the corner which will surely not go unnoticed by the England selectors.

But after Ashley Johnson received his
team's third yellow card, Day ended a period of sustained Northampton
pressure by snatching the game at the death.

Lewis Hamilton warned by Sir Jackie Stewart not to get carried away with own importance – F1

Don't get carried away with your own importance, Lewis! Legend Stewart fires warning to Mercedes star

By
Ian Parkes, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:48 GMT, 29 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:01 GMT, 29 January 2013

Sir Jackie Stewart has urged Lewis Hamilton not to get carried away with his own celebrity if he is to propel Mercedes forward this year.

Hamilton last week embarked on a new era in his Formula One career at Mercedes after six seasons with McLaren, a team he initially joined at the age of just 13.

There is no doubt Hamilton has taken a significant gamble, but the need to savour pastures new has been his driving force in signing up to the German manufacturing giant for the next three years.

Lewis Hamilton

Sir Jackie Stewart

In black and white: Lewis Hamilton must find the right balance to win titles, according to Sir Jackie Stewart

It is also almost certain Hamilton will enjoy greater freedom off track than was the case at McLaren, considering the emphasis placed on sponsorship commitments by the Woking-based marque on their drivers.

However, three-times champion Stewart feels Hamilton needs to make sure such liberty does not go to his head.

Hamilton can boast a pop-star girlfriend in Nicole Scherzinger and an array of friends from the music world, while there are suggestions he is planning on making his own music.

Bearing in mind Hamilton's desire to transform Mercedes into a winning team, Stewart is hoping the 28-year-old does not let his focus drift elsewhere.

New kid on the block: Hamilton ended his lengthy association with McLaren to join Mercedes on a three-year deal

New kid on the block: Hamilton ended his association with McLaren to join Mercedes on a three-year deal

Stewart said: 'Personally, if I'd been Lewis, I wouldn't have left McLaren. 'But as a 28-year-old, he should know what he is doing now.

'You just have to be damn careful you don't get carried away with your own importance, your own celebrity, or your own schedule outside of being in the cockpit. It can be quite intoxicating.

'What Lewis needs to do is have more consistently good drives, never mind the mechanical issues, and he shouldn't be distracted, something he should keep in the back of his mind.

'It's about who you hang out with, what you do in your off time, how you are committing your off time towards your real time – and your real time is being a racing driver.'

Famous faces: The British racer can boast a pop-star girlfriend in X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger

Famous faces: The British racer can boast a pop-star girlfriend in X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger

Such efforts will be noticed by team principal Ross Brawn, who has been accustomed to working with one of the greats in seven-times champion Michael Schumacher.

Although the last three years failed to produce the results hoped for by Schumacher prior to stepping back into retirement, the German was renowned for his meticulous and methodical nature in working with his engineers.

Stewart added: 'The Ross Brawn factor is important. 'He knows how to do it, and Lewis will have to work with him and depend on him, and Lewis, in time, will have to deliver.

'Ross has worked with drivers who have really delivered. He worked with Schumacher from Benetton all the way through, and he knows how much Michael put in.

'Therefore he will think Lewis will have to put as much into that team, time-wise, commitment-wise, not just race-time wise, as Michael did.

That's going to be quite demanding, but there's no reason why he shouldn't go straight in and be competitive up front, not at all.'

With just one victory in the last three years, though, since Mercedes returned to F1, the pressure is on both Brawn and Hamilton to deliver.

'Daimler (Mercedes' parent company), are only interested in being up front and being the best,' said Stewart.

'If they're not going to be that, it's a five-minute decision for the Mercedes-Benz board to withdraw from motor racing if there's another recession and they're not selling cars. 'In that respect, they're slightly vulnerable.'

San Lorenzo pull out of race for Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini

Fab news for Newcastle as San Lorenzo decide against bidding for captain Coloccini

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

16:29 GMT, 23 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:08 GMT, 23 January 2013

Newcastle have been boosted by the news that San Lorenzo have pulled out of the fight for captain Fabricio Coloccini.

The defender has been pining for a move back to his homeland for much of this month, citing personal reasons.

But after weeks of discussion, the Argentinian club confirmed on Twitter: 'Finally, after long negotiations, we announced that Fabricio Coloccini not join the squad.

Going nowhere: Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini won't be going home

Going nowhere: Newcastle captain Fabricio Coloccini won't be going home

'It was not possible to release the Newcastle player for this tournament and therefore the club will look for another alternative to strengthen the defense.'

San Lorenzo's decision is a major boost to boss Alan Pardew, who was defiant for much of January over the future of his star man, who has been on Tyneside since 2008.

Pep Guardiola wants Premier League move to put Chelsea and man City on alert

I'm ready to manage in Premier League, reveals Guardiola to put Chelsea and City on alert for swoop

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

22:00 GMT, 15 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:08 GMT, 16 January 2013

Pep Guardiola has fuelled the intrigue surrounding his future by stressing his desire to work in England.

Guardiola sent a message of congratulations to the Football Association as they prepared to launch their 150th anniversary celebrations in London on Wednesday.

And just like Jose Mourinho, who sent a similar message 24 hours earlier, he outlined his ambitions to coach in England, comments sure to alert the biggest clubs in the country.

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On his way: Pep Guardiola revealed his Premier League dream in a video for the FA

On his way: Pep Guardiola revealed his Premier League dream in a video for the FA

On his way: Pep Guardiola revealed his Premier League dream in a video for the FA

'As a player, I couldn't realise my dream to play there,' said Guardiola.

'But I hope in the future I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there and feel the experience of all the coaches and players that have been there.

'It is unique, to play in that league. I want to feel the supporters, the environment, the media and the style of the players.

'I am still young, just 41, so I hope in the future I could train there and enjoy that. I have always found English football very fascinating. The support of the home team is amazing.

Star man: Guardiola built one of the world's best teams while at Barcelona

Star man: Guardiola built one of the world's best teams while at Barcelona

'In Italy, Latin people will support you when you are playing and when you lose, they kill you. In England, I'm always surprised people always support everything and that is nice. That's why I hope to have the challenge to train there.'

Guardiola has been coveted by the biggest clubs in the world since stepping down as Barcelona coach last year after creating one of the best teams of all time.

He has spent much of his time in New York, improving his English, and Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been linked with a move for his services.

Anniversary: The Football Association are celebrating 150 years

Anniversary: The Football Association are celebrating 150 years

His plan is to return to work this summer and speculation this week linked him with Bayern Munich, but the Catalan told the FA of his special bond with England and Wembley.

He added: 'I had the opportunity to play two finals at Wembley and that's why my relationship with England is pretty close.

'I played there twice, once as a player when I was 19 and it was my first Champions League as a player, as Barcelona finally won the Champions League. It was a huge honour to play at the old Wembley.

'When I was manager of Barcelona, for our second Champions League in three years, it was a real pleasure to play in the new Wembley.

'Congratulations on this huge anniversary, because 150 years is a lot of years. 'Also because they created the rules of football and have a responsibility for the game. They have been important in the development of our beautiful, beautiful game.'

Video: Pep reveals his desire for English football

Manchester City and Chelsea on alert as Pep Guardiola reveals Premier League dream

Manchester City and Chelsea on alert as Guardiola reveals Premier League dream

By
Matt Barlow

PUBLISHED:

22:00 GMT, 15 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 15 January 2013

Pep Guardiola has fuelled the intrigue surrounding his future by stressing his desire to work in England.

Guardiola sent a message of congratulations to the Football Association as they prepared to launch their 150th anniversary celebrations in London on Wednesday.

And just like Jose Mourinho, who sent a similar message 24 hours earlier, he outlined his ambitions to coach in England, comments sure to alert the biggest clubs in the country.

In demand: A host of Premier League clubs are interested in Guardiola's services

In demand: A host of Premier League clubs are interested in Guardiola's services

'As a player, I couldn't realise my dream to play there,' said Guardiola.

'But I hope in the future I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there and feel the experience of all the coaches and players that have been there.

'It is unique, to play in that league. I want to feel the supporters, the environment, the media and the style of the players.

'I am still young, just 41, so I hope in the future I could train there and enjoy that. I have always found English football very fascinating. The support of the home team is amazing.

Star man: Guardiola built one of the world's best teams while at Barcelona

Star man: Guardiola built one of the world's best teams while at Barcelona

'In Italy, Latin people will support you when you are playing and when you lose, they kill you. In England, I'm always surprised people always support everything and that is nice. That's why I hope to have the challenge to train there.'

Guardiola has been coveted by the biggest clubs in the world since stepping down as Barcelona coach last year after creating one of the best teams of all time.

He has spent much of his time in New York, improving his English, and Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been linked with a move for his services.

Anniversary: The Football Association are celebrating 150 years

Anniversary: The Football Association are celebrating 150 years

His plan is to return to work this summer and speculation this week linked him with Bayern Munich, but the Catalan told the FA of his special bond with England and Wembley.

He added: 'I had the opportunity to play two finals at Wembley and that's why my relationship with England is pretty close.

'I played there twice, once as a player when I was 19 and it was my first Champions League as a player, as Barcelona finally won the Champions League. It was a huge honour to play at the old Wembley.

'When I was manager of Barcelona, for our second Champions League in three years, it was a real pleasure to play in the new Wembley.

'Congratulations on this huge anniversary, because 150 years is a lot of years. 'Also because they created the rules of football and have a responsibility for the game. They have been important in the development of our beautiful, beautiful game.'

Rigadin De Beauchene lands Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick

Rigadin De Beauchene lands Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick

PUBLISHED:

16:02 GMT, 12 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:51 GMT, 12 January 2013

Rigadin De Beauchene (5-1) put the icing on the cake of what has been a bountiful start to the month for trainer Venetia Williams when getting up in the shadow of the post to deny Godsmejudge and the gallant Pete The Feat in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick.

The eight-year-old put his jumping issues behind him under a determined Robbie Dunne to pull the race out of the fire after he was seemingly booked for third at the second-last fence.

New star: Nigel Twiston-Davies has a leading candidate for Cheltenham

New star: Nigel Twiston-Davies has a leading candidate for Cheltenham

Dunne intentionally steered a wide
course on Rigadin De Beauchene in the straight, a ploy that paid off as
the combination reeled in the battling leaders with 50 yards to travel
to win by half a length.

Williams said: 'Robbie swept wide
into the straight and managed to get the horse to meet the last fence on
a good stride which I think was very important.

'His owner Andrew Wiles hopes he may
emulate his half-brother Miko De Beauchene and win the Welsh National
next season. I think Andrew might have reservations about him going for
the Grand National itself though. He's had issues with his jumping.'

Williams said she was encouraged
about a good run from her gelding after the horse that beat him in the
mud at Lingfield went on to land the Sussex National.

Dunne said: 'We were going a good
gallop when he made a mistake down the back and he also got in tight to a
couple. But overall he jumped much better today, having had a
confidence-booster at Lingfield.'

Noel Fehily was proud of the gallant Pete The Feat whose unbeaten run of five this season was finally broken back in third.

He said: 'It was another very good run. He's jumped from fence to fence and galloped to the line.'

Nigel Twiston-Davies can be forgiven if he starts getting excited about The New One (1-2 favourite) who routed the opposition in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.

So far the only defeat he has
suffered in his career came in the Festival Bumper where he was sixth
but nothing in this Grade Two could live with him.

His jockey Sam Twiston-Davies said: 'The sky is the limit.'

Nigel Twiston-Davies said: 'He seems
to have so much speed and staying power and it's a shame we haven't
really learned anything, as some of the others didn't go in the ground
and he wasn't tested.

'He won but we still don't know
enough about him and that encourages me to look at the programme book
and find another two-and-a-half-miler for him in order to give him some
more experience.'

Sarah Such, joint-owner of the winner,
was out of breath after cheering The New One home and exclaimed:
'Amazing. I can't breath he is absolutely wonderful, a really special
horse.'

Team Twiston-Davies also took the concluding bumper with Pure Science (5-1), a nine-length winner.

Rocky Creek boosted his claims for the RSA Chase and was cut to 12-1 from 20s for that Cheltenham Festival contest after flooring Highland Lodge in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Novices' Chase.

Paddy Power were impressed with the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old after he readily brushed aside Highland Lodge in the home straight of the three-mile contest to leave that rival exhausted on the run-in.

The pair had taken each other on at the last three of the fences down the back stretch with Rocky Creek nudging into the lead under a confident Daryl Jacob before the second last.

At this point the 7-4 chance jumped to the front where Tour Des Champs fell and brought down the weakening Forgotten Gold. Rocky Creek then forged steadily clear of Highland Lodge, who stopped to a walk on the flat and was caught by 16-1 shot Fill The Power for second.

Jacob believes the winner could be a factor in the RSA given the right underfoot conditions.

He said: 'I had the favourite covered and just wanted him to give me a lead into the straight before pressing on.

'He's a horse for the future and will be a truly super chaser in time. He's a possible Cheltenham horse for sure providing the ground there isn't too quick.'

Ely Brown booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival when avenging his 2012 defeat in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier.

Second to Thehillofuisneach here 12 months ago, Charlie Longsdon's charge travelled well and readily outstayed Holywell and Hada Men by a length and a quarter and four under Noel Fehily.

According to his trainer, Ely Brown needed to win today in order to guarantee a run in the Final at Cheltenham in March.

Longsdon said: 'I said to Noel he had to win again if he was going to get to Cheltenham and after this he certainly deserves to take his chance.

'If he goes up 5lb it will be his ticket booked. He was second here last year and when I looked down today's field I thought it was quite a lot tougher.

'He had a hard race at Aintree. We gave him plenty of time to recover from that and he was pinging after his last outing at Haydock.'

Rody (11-2) earned glowing praise from his pilot Paddy Brennan who described the Tom George-trained gelding as 'as good a jumper as you could possibly wish to see' following his resounding success in the Betfred 'The Bonus King' Handicap Chase.

Giving weight to all seven of his rivals in the two-mile contest, Rody made it three wins from his last four starts as he continually made ground on Eastlake at his fences.

Brennan sent him on rounding the home bend and the combination pulled eight lengths clear, with Kapga De Cerisy a neck back in third. The winner is owned by Tony Dalton and Jennifer Laing who both work for Saatchi and Saatchi.

Laing said: 'He's a happy horse who really likes being at the racecourse. He wasn't as good over hurdles because he used to brush through them, but he gives the fences more respect.'

Brennan added: 'It's his jumping that wins him his races, I've been very impressed with him.'

Flaming Charmer caused a minor shock in the opener, posting a 14-1 triumph for owners Chasing Gold, trainer Colin Tizzard and jockey Brendan Powell.

The five-year-old proved too strong for Thunder Sheikh to deny Timmy Murphy a winner on his first ride back from injury in the Betfred Goals Galore Novices' Handicap Hurdle.

On ground described as soft by the winning jockey, Flaming Charmer outstayed his foes and Powell said: 'He's a nice horse for the future and I think he'll stay further.'

Tom Chadney, spokeman for Chasing Gold, said: 'The reason I bought him was because his dam is Kates Charm who won the Cleeve Hurdle and was a very good mare for Robert Alner.

'We have nine horses spread around the country with seven trainers. It enables our members to watch the horses run wherever they are based.'