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Go Dante grabs Imperial Cup in Sandown thriller

The eight-year-old was the 5-1 joint-favourite for the contest and was patiently ridden by Bowen in a field of 15 rivals.

The bay did not always jump with fluency and did not look the obvious winner as they turned for home, with plenty of horses ahead of him and two hurdles left to jump.

He was gaining ground constantly, however, and began to close in on Dan Skelton’s Faivoir at the head of affairs.

The two horses drew level as the post neared and a photo finish was required to split them, with Go Dante coming out on top by a nose.

Murphy said: “Horse and jockey were both very good there and my best friend (jockey) Harry Skelton has finished second, so it’s a good job I didn’t get a lift down with him.

“It was a great horse race and Faivoir is a tough horse and has won a County Hurdle.

“Go Dante has progressed well and we always thought he was going to be really good and he’s come here today off a mark still in the 120s. I’m not saying I would have been disappointed if he didn’t win, but I thought he was better than his mark just yet to prove it.

“He’s won a good pot today and these are the races you want to win aren’t they.”

Go Dante holds entries in both the County Hurdle and Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival, but Murphy will resist the temptation to head to Prestbury Park, instead thinking of one more run elsewhere before a possible chasing campaign next term.

He continued: “The first thing I said to Barbara (Hester, owner) is we won’t be running next week and the only reason I left him in was in case he bolted up.

“He’s a horse who has not underachieved, but he’s had a lot of problems and it’s a big well done to my team at home. He’s been a tough horse to train and he broke his pelvis in a nasty schooling incident. He’s been through the mill this lad.

“I think he will improve for a fence (next year) and I imagine he’ll have one more run over hurdles this year. Where that will be I don’t know, but I would imagine we might have a look at something at Aintree or Punchestown, or maybe the Scottish Champion Hurdle – something like that if it is soft.

“He’s had a very good year and hopefully he will be a very nice chaser next year.”

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