The Real Whacker stunned his rivals with an outsider’s victory in the Paddy Power Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
The seven-year-old was a 10-1 chance for the Grade Two under Sam Twiston-Davies, with Paul Nicholls’ Monmiral the most fancied of the field as the 13-8 favourite for the race better known as the Dipper.
Jumping exceptionally throughout, the Patrick Neville-trained gelding travelled strongly from the off and was not for catching when striding into an unassailable lead up the hill.
The Real Whacker came home three and a quarter lengths in front of Monmiral, with Betfair introducing him as a 25-1 chance for the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Festival and a 33-1 shot for the Brown Advisory at the March showpiece.
Neville is targeting the Festival, but will give his charge multiple options.
The trainer said: “He is a big frame and a bit babyish. We will mind him. We dropped him back (in trip), the idea being to put them under pressure, as he jumps so well.
“He will come back here for the Festival. He’ll be entered in a couple – he might even go for the Gold Cup!
“I’ve minded him as I know he is a good one. If he was in a bigger yard he would have got lost. It is brilliant.
“Looking at Monmiral, you had to respect him as he is a Grade One winner, but this horse is progressing and is on the up. Hopefully he will be a Grade One winner soon.
“He got into a lovely rhythm. Gavin Sheehan rode him the last day and filled him with confidence. Gavin wasn’t available today, which was disappointing, as he is at Catterick.
“I’ve been looking at Sam since a young lad riding around here and he has ridden loads of winners and he knows it like the back of his hand. He was a great sub but between the two of them they are top-class men but it helps when they have a nice horse underneath them.”
Nicholls retains plenty of faith in Monmiral despite his defeat.
He said: “He’s still a bit babyish. I don’t think he did a lot wrong, but he needs to grow up a bit and he’ll be all right in time.
“Clan (Des Obeaux) was a bit like that when he was that age. It took him until six to get to that next level.
“It is bit like Bravemansgame as everyone knocked his form as a five-year-old and look at him now. Monmiral will be the same, he just needs time.”