Stepping up to Grade Two company from Listed level, Kim Bailey’s charge – a winner at the showpiece meeting in March last year – put in an almost foot-perfect round of jumping to cruise home by five lengths at the 13-8 favourite.
Bryony Frost was eager to set the gallop aboard Black Corton in the two-mile-five-furlong contest – but David Bass had Imperial Aura on their heels and had just edged in front before Frost was unseated with eight fences still to jump.
While Real Steel briefly hit the front at one stage, Imperial Aura always looked to be in control and barring a slightly haphazard leap at the penultimate obstacle, Bailey’s runner never looked likely to be beaten.
Itchy Feet looked under pressure with three to jump, but stayed on to snatch second, with Real Steel a further two and a half lengths back in third.
Imperial Aura is now as low as 7-1 with Paddy Power for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival in March, with Coral going 8-1.
Kerry Lee is refusing to get carried away with Demachine despite the promising six-year-old maintaining his unbeaten record over fences at Ascot.
The 11-4 chance ran out a three-and-three-quarter-length victor in the Play The Coral “Racing Super Series” Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – and the hope is that one day he will be taking his chance in much loftier company.
Lee said: “Fences have really been the making of him. I minded him last year and I called him the big green machine at home last season. Lovely Herefordshire grass has done him the world of good over the summer.
“He has grown and matured and we have a right nice novice chaser on our hands. Richard (Patrick) said he did make a mistake at the first one down the hill second time round, but it made him stop and think about things – it did him the world of good.
“We will keep him in novice company this season and maybe a Welsh National or Ladbrokes Trophy next year. For now we will enjoy the moment.”
Bridget Andrews demonstrated nerves of steel after delivering the Dan Skelton-trained Robin Gold (4-1) with a well-timed run to get up almost on the line and claim the Veolia Mares’ Handicap Hurdle by half a length.
Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said: “Bridget gave her an unbelievable ride. She won on her a couple of starts ago at Lingfield and knows that she doesn’t do a lot in front and that was the case the last day when she got beat.
“Dan and Bridget were adamant about not getting there too soon, but to ride a mare like that takes a lot of confidence. She is progressing nicely and obviously handles that ground as well.
“The tongue tie has helped and we’ve done a few different things at home. Sometimes these fillies take a little bit of working out.”
Shang Tang (9-4) opened his account at the ninth time of asking when taking a step up in trip in his stride.
Out of luck in his three bumpers and five previous hurdle starts, the Emma Lavelle-trained six-year-old finally struck gold on his first attempt over the extended two-mile-five-furlong trip of the Coral “Fail To Finish” Free Bet Novices’ Hurdle.
Lavelle said: “He has always been a bit immature. He left home in the horse box facing forwards and he arrived at the racecourse facing backwards. That’s kind of him.
“He was jumping the hurdles so fast I was thinking maybe I should have gone back to two miles, but actually he is a strong-travelling, great-jumping horse that seems to stay and that opens up a world of opportunity for him.
“He had run some really nice races and if you look at his form there are bits of it that are decent, but it just hasn’t happened for him. I think everyone will have gained confidence today.”
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