Malaya sets up potential County Hurdle tilt following impressive Imperial Cup victory at Sandown

In winning the Sandown feature, the progressive mare set up a potentially lucrative start in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

There is a £100,000 bonus up for grabs for the winner of the Imperial Cup if they can follow up in either the County Hurdle or Coral Cup.

And Nicholls confirmed that route was under serious consideration for the five-year-old after she won cosily under a confident Harry Cobden.

She cruised into contention from off the pace and survived a bad blunder at the second last to beat Monsieur Lecoq (7-2) by a length and a quarter.

Nicholls said: "She ran well at Ascot the other day – two-miles-three was probably too far for her. She'd had two falls and we were keen to get a clear round and get her confidence up.

"She's improved since then and today was the day, she had a big chance.

"What happened at the second-last showed how tough she is. She is a good mare on her day and actually ran well in a Grade 1 at Auteuil in November when she fell and could have been fourth.

"Off 10st 2lb today, I thought she had dropped to a nice mark.

"She could possibly go to Cheltenham. She's tough. She doesn't need much work, so it's a definite possibility. We could look at it."

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