Messire Des Obeaux showed his two younger rivals the way home in the Paddy Power Dipper Novices’ Chase at Wincanton.
Winner of the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve of 2016, Alan King’s charge went on to be placed at both the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree the following spring, before injury kept him off the track for almost three years.
His return from a 1,034-day hiatus at Huntingdon last February was not devoid of promise, but it nevertheless looked as though his best days may perhaps be behind him.
However, following a heart-warming success on his chasing debut at Wincanton last month, the nine-year-old returned to Somerset for a Grade Two contest saved from the abandoned fixture at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day – and proved up to the task in the hands of Daryl Jacob.
Settled at the rear of the three-runner field for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey, Messire Des Obeaux could be spotted travelling best rounding the home turn, and it was just a question of what he would find when push came to shove.
In the end he showed he had plenty in the locker, with a flying leap at the final fence sealing a near five-length verdict over Dan Skelton’s 1-2 favourite Protektorat.
Speaking from home, King said: “That definitely brought a smile to my face – I’m delighted.
“He wasn’t going to run in the race if it was run at Cheltenham as that would have been way too soon – he wasn’t even entered for it. The race only came into the equation after it was moved and if he hadn’t run here, he’d probably have gone to Huntingdon for a novice handicap.
“He seems as good as he ever was. I can’t think of bringing one back from that long off the track to win, not at that level anyway.
“He is a good horse and that is the reason we persevered and persuaded the owners to bring him back, as they were going to retire him in France. I begged them to bring him back for another crack. A lot of work has gone in to get him back, from my vets and all the team here.
“It doesn’t always come off, so it’s lovely when it does.”
Considering future plans for his charge, the trainer added: “We’ll take it one day at a time. We’ll probably enter him for the Festival, but I am a little bit nervous about taking horses that have had leg problems to Cheltenham, just with the undulations and everything.
“I’m not saying he won’t go there, but I would be slightly worried about it.”
Messire Des Obeaux starred in a remarkable five-timer on the card for Jacob.
The leading rider also struck gold aboard Robert Walford’s Ede’iffs Elton (7-2 favourite), the Paul Nicholls-trained Capeland (6-1), Ben Pauling’s Anightinlambourn (3-1) and Jackson Hill (7-1) from Milton Harris’ yard.