Dynamite Dollars turned the form from his previous race on its head to win the randoxhealth.com Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown, with Lalor only third.
Lalor had looked so impressive at Cheltenham when winning on his chasing debut with Dynamite Dollars seven lengths back in second – but Paul Nicholls has not been a multiple champion trainer by shying away from a challenge and took him on again.
Unfortunately for favourite-backers, Lalor never looked completely happy on much softer ground and going right-handed, as Diakali and Irish raider Ornua set a searching early pace.
When Diakali dropped away, Ornua was left in front under young Dylan Robinson, but Dynamite Dollars (9-2) was stalking and Lalor struggling on back in third.
Jumping the last it looked as if Ornua may hold on, but Harry Cobden persevered on the 9-2 chance and he stayed on strongly up the hill to win by a length and three-quarters in a stirring finish to the Grade One affair.
Nicholls said: “It was impressive. It’s amazing how five-year-olds improve. Last season he was a fairly ordinary novice hurdler and he has physically improved.
“When I saw him in the paddock at Cheltenham, I thought he didn’t look that great, but today I said to Tom Malone, who brought Lalor up in the box, don’t count him out, as he looks so much different today than he was the last time.
“He has just improved. He gallops, he stays, he’s a proper horse. He jumps and stays, a real tough horse.”
The winner was handed a 14-1 quote for the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham by Paddy Power. Coral are taking no chances, offering 10-1. GentingBet go 12-1, with Kalashnikov the 7-2 favourite.
Rider Richard Johnson felt the tacky ground was against the Kayley Woollacott-trained Lalor: “He just laboured in the ground. I have only ridden him a couple of times before, but that is the worst ground I’ve ridden him on.
“They were concerned about it, but thought we had to run. He has this run under his belt now and they can wait now and find some nicer ground, and maybe have one more run before Cheltenham.
“He seems to have come out of the race well and that is just a bit more experience. I’m still looking forward to Cheltenham.”
John Phelan, owner of Ornua, was delighted with second place for Henry de Bromhead’s charge: “We were hoping he would run really well, but this was beyond our expectations.
“We always thought he was underrated and this shows what a good horse he is. He was travelling so well. I thought we had it at the last, but he just got run out of it. But he has run a tremendous race.
“He is in at Leopardstown on December 26 and then he will have a rest. We were not planning on Cheltenham – we were planning to rest him for Aintree and Punchestown, but I will have to talk to Henry now.
“He will definitely have a rest after Punchestown, if he goes to Punchestown.”