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Imperial Aura new Ryanair favourite after flawless jumping display in 1965 Chase

David Bass is no stranger to talented horses, but Imperial Aura is carrying him right into the top tier after a commanding victory in the 1965 Chase.

Bass partnered one of jump racing's greats during his time with Nicky Henderson, with trivia buffs no doubt remembering he was the lucky jockey who was aboard former Seven Barrows superstar Sprinter Sacre for his chasing debut.

But that was a fleeting relationship and the love affair between Bass and Imperial Aura is much more enduring.

It is no surprise why after the Kim Bailey-trained seven-year-old, a Cheltenham Festival winner in the now defunct novice handicap chase, proved way too classy for his rivals, recording a five-length verdict from the smart Itchy Feet that resulted in bookmakers shortening him into favouritism for the Ryanair Chase in March.

Imperial Aura, photo Mark Craham

"He's very exciting," purred Bass after a fine performance by the slick-jumping son of Kalanisi. "It's amazing how much he's improved. He's probably one of the most exciting horses I've got to look forward to.

"We came into this with the utmost respect for the opposition but were confident our horse was in good form and we knew our big asset was our jumping, which will stand him in good stead when he goes on to compete at the top level.

"I remember two years ago he went to Carlisle for a novice hurdle and I thought, 'Yeah, this is a good horse'."

How good? "It's hard to compare any horse to Sprinter Sacre, who was something else, but take nothing away from this fella and I do think he can compete at the top level," added the 32-year-old, who is looking for a career-defining mount.

"And he's so exciting because you don't know how much he can improve again."

Bailey, who is enjoying a fine run this season, concurred. The trainer has a Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle on his CV so knows what is needed when the stakes are at their highest.

He confirmed the Ryanair the target, but would not be drawn on a Gold Cup bid in time. That was a route taken by Imperial Commander, who carried the same distinctive black and white silks to glory in those races a decade or so ago.

"This is the most progressive horse I've had for a long time," Bailey said with noticeable conviction. "And he's still improving."

Bailey and Bass completed a double when First Flow landed the 2m1f handicap chase in the colours of Tony Solomons, the trainer's longest-serving owner.

Unlike his stablemate Imperial Aura, he is an "appalling" jumper and nearly did not run, but that call proved correct as he powered home. Bailey and Bass are making all the right calls at present.

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