Making his first start in 270 days, the six-year-old stayed on strongly after going on two out to defeat odds-on favourite Reserve Tank by four lengths – giving trainer Paul Nicholls his eighth victory in the Grade Two contest.
Watch a full replay of the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase
Nicholls said of his Harry Cobden-ridden 9-2 shot: “It was a very nice surprise. I wanted to run him in a beginners’ chase to get some experience and I thought I was chucking him in at the deep end today.
“I thought he would need the run and experience, but he must be very good. He is a big, strong, old-fashioned type.
“His breathing wasn’t good, but we sorted that out. He surprised me there – I thought he would run an OK race, but I thought he would finish third and would improve and run in a beginners’ chase over Christmas and carry on from there.
“He will improve massively, as he hadn’t had a run. We brought him here a fortnight ago for a gallop and Sam Twiston-Davies said for one of mine he didn’t feel very fit.”
He added: “He looks like he may well be that horse (RSA type) as all he can do is get better.
“He jumped well and Harry said he felt like he was riding a hunter all the way round, as he just kept popping away, and that he turned down the straight and just took off.
“I hadn’t made a plan as I thought he would run in a beginners’ chase over Christmas, but that (Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase) is possible. If it was soft, why not?
“He is the sort of horse that might keep surprising us.”
Earlier, Floressa put in a near foot-perfect round of jumping to get her career back on track in the Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Having gone down by a short head to Silver Forever at the course earlier this month, the Nicky Henderson-trained four-year-old exacted revenge on her last-time-out conqueror to claim Listed honours and add to her debut victory over hurdles at Worcester.
Nicky Henderson tells us more about Floressa
Jumping slickly throughout the extended two-mile prize, the 10-11 favourite moved through the gears smartly late on to defeat Gavin Cromwell’s Irish raider Jeremys Flame by a length and a half, with another four and a half lengths back to Silver Forever.
Henderson said: “I was worried they had a hard enough race the last day, but both have come back with the same intention. Paul Nicholls’ mare got herself a 3lb penalty and that’s where they’ve run to.
“She is a lovely looking mare. She will jump anything you want her to. She is slick. Even from that first day at Worcester, she was like an arrow.
“She will have a break now, as she has had three quite quick races. We will work back from the Cheltenham (Festival) mares’ novice race.”
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