Bravemansgame continued his surge up the ranks with a very impressive victory in the MansionBet Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.
Several very good horses have won the Grade One down the years – including subsequent Gold Cup winner Denman, trained just like Bravemansgame by Paul Nicholls.
An easy winner over course and distance last time out, the five-year-old faced a different calibre of opponent this time – but Harry Cobden was keen to make it a real test from the outset.
The 5-2 joint-favourite was soon in an early lead – with Does He Know, who was helping to keep him honest, a casualty down the back straight when he ran out on the approach to a hurdle.
Star Gate, Evan Williams’ fellow market leader, and Alan King’s The Glancing Queen both appeared to be going well three out – but every time they looked close enough to challenge, Cobden let out a bit more rein in front.
On the approach to the last it became obvious the winner was in front, and he pulled an impressive 10 lengths clear of Star Gate.
The winner has shortened to 6-1 from 12s for the Ballymore with Betfair, while the same firm make him 16-1 favourite for the Albert Bartlett.
Nicholls was completing a treble on the card and needs just one more winner to reach his century for the season, before New Year’s Day.
“Denman won the Challow,” he said.
“He is the same sort of big, scopey horse that will make a chaser.
“This one has probably got a little more boot than Denman had. He is a hard horse to follow, but he is going the right way. He has got it all. It just shows you that now he has grown up he doesn’t mind that ground.
“He will go to the Ballymore. It is just whether we give him one run beforehand or not – we will see.
“I won’t run him on trials day. If we did (run again) we will look for a soft race as part of his preparation, or we would go straight there.
“He will get three miles in time, but we don’t need to do that at the moment because he’s got plenty of speed – but the Supreme would be far too sharp for him. The Ballymore is the obvious race to run him in.”
Nicholls had not won this race since Denman almost 15 years ago, in a renewal re-routed to Cheltenham that winter, so it was no surprise his name kept on cropping up.
“It is hard to draw comparisons with Denman, because he was a superstar, but at the same stage of his career he is heading that way,” he added.
“I really could see him being a lovely chaser. He is a relentless galloper that jumps well and does everything nicely. He will definitely be a better chaser.
“He wasn’t cheap, but if you look at all those horse that have been winning at Leopardstown the last few days they have all cost fortunes. If you want good horses you have got to be prepared to pay for them.
“Tom Malone (bloodstock agent) and I liked him as an individual at the sales. He was a big, scopey chasing type of horse that I would call ‘my sort of horse’ that just needed time. He is a lovely horse.
“Harry loves him and he is a very nice horse. Those novice hurdles are hard to win, and Denman got beat there (as a novice hurdler at the Cheltenham Festival).
“The Irish will have some good horses to run in it, but it is exciting to go to Cheltenham with him.”
Cobden said: “That is the best novice we have got. He travels, he jumps and he does everything right. He is straightforward. He is not lazy, and he just makes my job very easy.
“To be fair we didn’t go that quick, but we quickened up well. He is probably not as slow as I thought he was. I wouldn’t call him an idle horse, but he doesn’t do loads in front.
“The last three he has come down to each hurdle and pricked his ears. He has come out of my hands at the second last. He gives himself a chance.
“I think he goes well left-handed. Cheltenham is obviously undulating, but all the others have got to do it as well.
“He is probably, looking at it now, my best chance of getting a winner at the Festival I would say. In the decent Graded races, and I know it’s early doors, he would be the best chance I have going into it.”