Present Man capped a memorable day at Wincanton for Paul Nicholls when registering back-to-back victories in the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase to complete a 327-1 five-timer for the Ditcheat handler.
Owned by the race sponsors, Present Man became only the second horse to defend the trophy after Swansea Bay in 2002 and 2003, and also put jockey Bryony Frost within one winner of losing her claim.
Sharing duties at the head of affairs with On Demand, Present Man (5-1 joint-favourite) kicked on from the third-last fence and kept the last challenger, Sumkindofking, at bay by two and a half lengths.
Nicholls said: “It’s very special. Bryony gave him a fantastic ride, was always in the right place and saved a little bit.
“This horse is a big favourite and for Mark and Tessa (Woodhouse), who own him and sponsor the race.
“It’s funny how it works out, because he was bitterly disappointing for Andy Stewart and Paul Barber and they basically said move him on.
“I said to Mark and Tess I’ve got a horse if they were patient might win you a Badger Ales in time and the rest is history.
“It’s a plan that’s come off because we trained him for today. It’s awesome for everybody.”
Nicholls is now looking to the Randox Health Grand National for Present Man, and will first go for the Becher Chase over the famous fences at Aintree next month.
Frost said: “What a perfect day. I don’t think he made one mistake all the way round.
“He was trained to perfection and was as fit as a flea. This horse is worth his weight in gold.”
Frost was also on the second of Nicholls’ winners, Capeland (11-4), who took the Ann Westwood Memorial Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase.
Harry Cobden was aboard the stable’s other three winners – Grand Sancy (4-6 favourite) in the EBF Stallions ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Qualifier, If You Say Run (6-4 favourite) in the Hunts Food Service Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and Flic Ou Voyou (5-2) in the concluding bumper.
Verdana Blue (5-2) confirmed she is a mare on the upgrade when winning the Unibet Elite Hurdle.
Concerns about the rain-softened ground were allayed as the Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old put her rivals to the sword with a likeable display.
Her stablemate We Have A Dream made the running into the straight, where If The Cap Fits loomed large with Verdana Blue soon in their slipstream.
She quickened up nicely in the hands of Jerry McGrath and went on to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths from If The Cap Fits.
Verdana Blue holds an entry in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham next weekend and was cut to 6-1 from 12-1 with Paddy Power.
Bags Groove (6-5 favourite) looks a smart recruit to the fencing ranks after putting up an admirable front-running performance to win the Jockey club Ownership Syndicate ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase.
Noel Fehily set out to make it a true test over the two and a half miles and the Harry Fry-trained seven-year-old proved a willing partner.
Backing up his first win over fences at Ffos Las, Bags Groove jumped well apart from the last, but it did not stop his momentum and he went on to beat the Nicholls-trained Secret Investor by nine lengths.