Our Power wore down Flegmatik to win the Coral Trophy at Kempton for Sam Thomas and Sam Twiston-Davies, setting up a shot at the Grand National.
In a race run at a stiff tempo set by Annsam, Twiston-Davies was happy to bide his time on the eight-year-old winner.
Third in the race 12 months ago, he was racing off a mark 5lb higher having won his only other start this season at Ascot. He looked to face a stiff task turning into the straight, as Harry Skelton was sat motionless on Flegmatik, chasing his third win at the track.
When asked to go and win his race, however, he could never completely put the race to bed and Our Power (11/2) was always close enough if good enough.
Twiston-Davies got a big leap out of his mount at the last and he landed with momentum, which enabled him to win by a neck. Top-weight Frodon ran another thoroughly creditable race back in third.
It was another feature handicap chase for Thomas who won the Becher Chase with Al Dancer and the Classic Chase at Warwick with Iwilldoit.
The winner is now 10/1 from 16s with Betfair for the Ultima at Cheltenham and 25/1 for the Grand National at Aintree.
“I’m so pleased for Dai (Walters), James and Jean Potter (owners) who are unswerving supporters of the game,” said Twiston-Davies. “He was fantastic early in the season when he won at Ascot.
“This was only his second run of the season and it’s a fair training performance to win a £100,000 handicap and then this.
“I was only ever three deep at worst and he’s such an economical jumper. I thought halfway down the back he would keep getting there and in the straight he was very good coming between horses. He’s not the biggest, but he has scope and can go in and out.
“He’s the right type for the National and I feel now would be the right time. But he’s on 63 (in list of runners) so would need a few to come out.
“He’s an accurate jumper and can also be quite bold. I think he’s got what it takes for the National and it would be great for Sam who is a good friend and a very good trainer.”
Grade Two double for Nicholls & Cobden
Solo produced an exhibition round of jumping from the front to provide trainer Paul Nicholls with a yet another victory in the Coral Pendil Novices’ Chase.
The Ditcheat handler had saddled a dozen previous winners of the Grade Two contest, with his last three – Cyrname (2018), Tamaroc Du Mathan (2021) and Pic D’Orhy (2022) – all carrying the Solo silks of owner Johnny de la Hey.
Solo had undergone wind surgery since finishing second in a novice handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day and it appears to have done the trick judged on this impressive display.
The 11/4 shot was bounced out in front from flag-fall by Harry Cobden and some slick jumping kept the pressure on his chasing rivals.
Datsalrightgino and 15/8 favourite Boothill attempted to close the gap from the home turn, but Solo was not for catching with another bold leap at the final fence sealing his two-length success.
Nicholls and Cobden were back in the winner’s enclosure as Rubaud put a disappointing effort in the Betfair Hurdle well behind him with a gritty success in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
The youngster was strongly fancied for the richest handicap hurdle of the season at Newbury a fortnight ago but gave himself no chance by racing far too freely.
Front-running tactics were employed this time by Cobden and fitted with a hood he was much more settled. He was able to dictate matters at his own pace and when he kicked coming out of the home straight, he looked to have an unassailable advantage.
The favourite Hansard soon dropped away, as did Ukantango, but the mare Mullenbeg quickened up to almost join the leader.
She could not quite reel him in, though, and went down by a length and a quarter.
Nusret aimed at Boodles after Adonis success
Nusret ran out a determined winner of the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle – advertising the claims of a couple of fellow Irish-trained contenders for the Triumph Hurdle in the process.
Well beaten the last twice by Lossiemouth and Blood Destiny, he was providing trainer Joseph O’Brien with a third Grade Two four-year-old hurdle prize in Britain this season after the successes of Comfort Zone at Chepstow and Cheltenham.
The race changed in complexion when the front-running Sarsons Risk came down at the last flight in the back straight when still going well.
Several runners were hampered, including the eventual winner, but it left Perseus Way in front and Jamie Moore kicked a couple of lengths clear.
Rare Middleton briefly flattered, but Daryl Jacob was biding his time on Nusret and a mistake at the last by Perseus Way enabled the 7/2 chance to come home a length and a quarter clear.
Scriptwriter, who went into the race as one of Britain’s leading Triumph Hurdle aspirants, faded tamely after a mistake.
The winner was cut to 5/1 from 8s for the Boodles Fred Winter at Cheltenham.