Blackjack Magic showed plenty of heart to repel Threeunderthrufive and claim the 62nd Badger Beer Handicap Chase at Wincanton.
One of four in the field for Dorset handler Anthony Honeyball, the eight-year-old was sent off a 5-1 chance in the hands of Rex Dingle and was in the ideal spot during the early exchanges, keeping close tabs on The Big Breakaway, who usurped defending champion Frodon at the head of proceedings.
With a circuit to run, Dingle moved his mount forward to join The Big Breakaway on the front-end and turning for home with just the fences in the straight to jump, there was only Paul Nicholls’ 3-1 favourite Threeunderthrufive going just as well.
The duo matched strides down to the second last and the last, but it was Honeyball’s charge who cleared the final jumping test with more precision and pulled out extra with the winning line approaching to secure a three-length success.
Bryony Frost and Frodon, last year’s race winners, came home 14 lengths adrift of the front two in third.
Honeyball said: “We thought he would need it a bit. It was not a 17-runner affair, so we thought let him take his chance and have a round of jumping and that is what we have done.
“He wasn’t really targeted like (stablemates) Sam Brown and Forward Plan, who were always coming here. He was just an afterthought. The options weren’t there for us but he is a novice stepping forward and we thought he might have a chance.
“The race at Uttoxeter must have worked out quite well and I think people were climbing on the back of that. His best form for us was on soft and heavy. He always held that advantage.
“It was a very good boost. I was worried we were going to get beat. He is obviously one to catch fresh, but he looked big and burly to me.
“We feel he wants a bit of daylight so he had to start out bit wide, but he managed to come in and have a nice economical round. He was saving all the time. He has got a bit of speed to him and that enabled him to get a fill of the lungs. It is funny how it has come right for him.”
Nicholls is looking towards next month’s Coral Gold Cup at Newbury for Threeunderthrufive, while Frodon could head to Kempton on Boxing Day for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
He said: “Threeunderthrufive ran a belter giving a bit of weight away. He is in the Coral Gold Cup off 10st 6lb and he won’t get a penalty and won’t go up in the weights, so that is a positive and he is likely to go there.
“He has run a cracker. He was giving more than a stone in weight to the winner. If he jumped a bit more fluently over the last two, he might have been closer. There is a big handicap in him somewhere.
“We thought all week it might be tacky enough for Frodon, but he has run a solid race to finish third. He is in the King George and he might run in that on decent ground. He might be better off in that if there is a small field off level weights as opposed to running off a big weight in a handicap.
“Bryony said he just wants slightly better ground, but he has run a super race.”