AS FOCUS turned to the Cheltenham Festival, Hereford Racecourse held their Pre-festival meeting on Saturday and top trainers Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls sent one representative to Hereford each and both came away comfortable winners, writes Graham Saveker

Nicky Henderson sent City Chief in the three mile one and a half maiden hurdle and the 1/5 favourite, in the colours of previous Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo, made light work of his three rivals.

Making all under jockey Jonjo O’Neill junior, the favourite was sent to the front early in the race and gradually drew clear to win by five and a half lengths from the promising second placed Prince Des Fichaux.

This completed a short-price double for O’Neill who had earlier scored aboard his father’s Prince Escalus in the two mile handicap Chase at odds of 5/4 by an easy eleven lengths.

The Paul Nicholls trained Milan Bridge made it two wins from three starts under rules in the extended three mile handicap hurdle, winning in the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, for jockey Tom Buckley by two and a quarter lengths.

Local Downton Hall trainer Henry Daly also has high hope of a Festival winner with his promising Hillcrest, who he confirmed will be Cheltenham bound now in the Albert Bartlett Novices hurdle on Friday, and he was in the winners enclosure during the afternoon with the win of Lime Drop in the two mile Mares Hurdle race.

Ridden confidently by Tom Scudamore the six-year-old made ground smoothly through the field coming home easy three and three quarter length winners.