The Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton has been the Paul Nicholls benefit over the years, having been won by the likes of top-class chasers Frodon and Cyrname.
This renewal was no exception, as Tamaroc Du Mathan gave the master trainer an 11th success in the extended two-and-a-half-mile event.
The six-year-old, who scored at Wincanton on his chasing bow in November before chasing home Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase in December, returned to Kempton to go one better.
The four-runner event may not have been the strongest renewal, but the even-money favourite never looked in any danger once Harry Cobden asked him to quicken off a steady pace from the final turn.
Though jumping overly big at the last two, he showed plenty of zest and was not stopping at the line, having three and three-quarter lengths to spare from Ga Law, with Coole Cody, who helped set the pace, fading into third, a further 12 lengths back.
While he holds an entry in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicholls is eyeing Aintree, feeling that he lacked a little experience.
Nichols said: “I’m very pleased. We were hopeful that was the right for him. It was the first time he’s won over two and a half (miles), but he got the trip nicely, jumps well and it is good ground. Perfect.
“He has plenty of scope and he surprised Harry (at the last). He came out of his hands. He thought he’d probably get in a bit closer, but it shows he had plenty of energy left. That’s why he’s a novice. It was only his third run over fences and he is still learning. He is so full of enthusiasm, but he has just got to get his act together a bit, but it is just one of those things.
“I suspect he will go to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase or at Ayr the week after for the Future Champions Novices’ Chase over two and a half. I don’t see him going to Cheltenham.”
The Ditcheat handler added: “This was always the perfect race to aim him for. There was nothing else to run him in, really. Those two races (at Aintree and Ayr) would be ideal for him and we will step up in class next year. He’s not exactly well handicapped.
“I think this fella could progress. He is the sort of horse who you’d definitely look at for the likes of the Silviniaco Conte Chase next year over two and half. He’s a young horse and could progress. If you have good horses below the radar that won’t necessarily be going to Cheltenham, then this is a great race for those type of horses.
“I could have run Hitman today if the ground had been a lot easier, but I was worried the ground might have been a bit too fast for him – but this race slots in for those type of horses who are not going to run at Cheltenham.”