Grand Sancy lunged late to claim top honours in the Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock.
Trained by Ditcheat-based Nicholls, the four-year-old was the 5-4 favourite to follow up his victory at Wincanton a fortnight ago in the hands of Harry Cobden.
His main market rival Cause Toujours made much of the running and looked set to prevail after jumping the final flight in a clear lead.
But the further Grand Sancy went, the better he looked and he wore down Cause Toujours late on to score by two lengths.
Nicholls said: “He’s not the easiest horse in the world to ride as he’s very keen. He’s not the kind of horse you could follow the pace on as he’d do too much, so Harry had to take his time on him and has given him a good ride.
“What he does do is stay on strong and if he learned to relax, he’d be even better as he does have an abundance of stamina.
“He could go for the Kennel Gate at Ascot next month, but we’ll also look at handicaps as he’ll be a better horse when they go quick.
“He’s not going to win a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he’s a fun horse who should win plenty and he’ll make a nice chaser in a year’s time.”
The Tom George-trained Activial (100-30) ran out a 16-length winner of the Cash Out In-Play With Betfair Graduation Chase.
However, Tom Scudamore’s mount was being strongly challenged by 9-4 favourite River Wylde when he crashed out at the final fence.
George said: “He went back to Roger Brookhouse (owner) during the summer and he has done a really good job with him.
“He had his problems, but he has some high-class form and, to be fair, he’s been as good as gold since we’ve had him.
“This looked a nice stepping-stone for him and we’ll have a think about where we go from here.”
Ian Williams and Tom O’Brien combined to land the Betfair Each Way Edge Handicap Chase with Red Infantry.
The 7-2 chance put his rivals to the sword over the marathon trip of three and a half miles and had enough in reserve to hold Bishops Road at bay by two and three-quarter lengths.
Little Bruce, the 2-1 favourite, fell at the second fence and the obstacle had to be bypassed on the following two circuits as jockey Tommy Dowson remained on the ground.
He later walked to the ambulance having suffered a suspected broken collarbone.
“I’m delighted with him, he’s done that well,” said Williams.
“He looks like he’ll make up into a horse for one of the Nationals one day. He jumped well and stayed well and looks progressive.
“Whether he’s a horse you’d aim at a National this year, I’m not sure as he’s still a bit immature, but we’ll see.”
Champion jockey Richard Johnson was at his brilliant best aboard Black Mischief (6-1) in the Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Handicap Hurdle.
Harry Fry’s inmate looked booked for third at best coming to the final flight, but Johnson guided his mount between Mr Antolini and Chti Balko on the run-in to score by three-quarters of a length and a head.
Fry’s assistant, Mikey Legg, said: “He probably would have won at Market Rasen last time but for falling at the last, but this makes up for it.
“This race was the plan, so we’ll get him up and see what the boss says.”
There was a thrilling conclusion to the concluding Better Value On The Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase.
Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds and Danny Cook (10-3) got the better of a protracted duel with Captain Redbeard, but was all out in the end to deny the late flourish of Takingrisks by half a length.