Paul Nicholls was left “rueing” the rain that fell at Kempton after watching his three runners take placed honours in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
The Ditcheat handler felt he was sending his strongest ever team in search of a 13th win in the Christmas spectacular, with dual winner Clan Des Obeaux, last year’s victor Frodon and new recruit Saint Calvados all lining up.
While each appeared to have a chance at one stage, the trio ultimately were no match for the nine-length winner Tornado Flyer.
Clan Des Obeaux fared best in second after Asterion Forlonge departed, with Saint Calvados three and a half lengths back in third and Frodon, who tried to make all in his usual style, a further eight and a half lengths in arrears.
Nicholls was satisfied with their efforts – but felt the ground, which was was changed to soft after the second race from good to soft, proved crucial.
He said: “Clan Des Obeaux ran a super race. He just got outstayed on that soft ground. He’d been racing Frodon on the front end and then Saint Calvados took him on and Harry (Cobden) couldn’t fill his lungs up turning in and he got a bit tired.
“Bryony (Frost) said she was never able to get a breather into Frodon, but he’s run well.
“Saint Calvados ran a blinding race – he was in front 10 minutes too soon. If he’d sat and followed on through he might have been second, but he ran a mighty race. I’d say we’ll get a nice race out of him when ridden a bit more patiently
“I was rueing the rain that fell as I think all three of ours would prefer better ground, but I’m not making excuses – the best horse on the day won.”
Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo proved a big disappointment for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, taking on Frodon for the early lead before dropping away tamely and eventually being pulled up with three fences still to jump.
Blackmore could offer no excuse for the lacklustre effort and said: “I asked him down the back and it was backwards. He was beaten a long way from home and we’ll just have to see.”
Chantry House was another who failed to fire, being pulled up at the 12th fence after being sent off the 3-1 favourite.
His trainer Nicky Henderson also felt the ground took its toll, while admitting the track probably did not play to his strengths either.
He said: “He hated that ground. It was always a worry that a track like that might not be his cup of tea as he is a genuine stayer. I would think they would be saying the same about Minella Indo.
“It is just not his track. Kempton is a specialist track in a funny way.
“As Nico (de Boinville) said, he just pulled him up as he was off it from the word go. It wasn’t as if he got to three out and finished sixth. His game was over very early on.
“You have to just forget about it. Unfortunately it is sad, but you have to just get over it and train him for the Gold Cup.”