Top Notch demonstrated the best of his battling abilities and showed plenty of heart to claim a second Fitzdares Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
After claiming the Grade Two prize in 2017 when it was transferred to Taunton, the Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old joined an elite list of dual winners of the two-and-a-half-mile contest when following up his comeback win at Aintree over hurdles last month.
Passing long-time leader La Bague Au Roi going over the penultimate fence, the 15-8 favourite dug deep after the last to repel the late challenge of outsider of the field Kauto Riko by three-quarters of a length.
Henderson said: “It is great that he has come back and won this. If the general election was this morning this fellow would be Prime Minister because everybody just loves him.
“If you said what is the most popular stalwart in the place – I know there are better horses – this fellow would be the one, as he doesn’t know how to do anything wrong.
“You can go hurdling, you can go three miles or two miles, but you wouldn’t find a nicer person.
“You only need 10 horses like him and I’d love life.
“He has been placed in a Triumph Hurdle and he never looked remotely like a steeplechaser as he is not big enough, but he has just got a heart of gold.
“They had gone hard which suits, as he stays. He had a tongue tie on him today as Nico (de Boinville) thought at Aintree he was a little bit raspy.
“He had worn a tongue tie at home, but he wasn’t sure about it early in the race and he wasn’t quite facing it. He is like a terrier and as soon as the scrap starts we are in good shape. If we can smell the rat he will get there.”
The Lambourn handler earmarked the recently-upgraded Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton next month as the next port of call for Top Notch, who was cut from 25-1 into 14-1 for the Ryanair Chase by Paddy Power, while Fitzdares went 12-1 for the same race.
Henderson added: “That’s a good enough race (Silviniaco Conti) for him, but we will work him and see how he is and he will tell us where he wants to go.”
A step up in trip to three miles could be on the cards for 100-1 runner-up Kauto Riko according to his trainer Tom Gretton.
He said: “This was supposed to be prep run for a handicap chase on New Year’s Day but that has gone out of the window.
“He is a lovely horse and the tongue tie has helped and he might even get three miles.”
Warren Greatrex feels La Bague Au Roi confirmed that her disappointing effort on her seasonal return in the Charlie Hall was just a one off by finishing third.
He said: “I’m thrilled. She jumped great and showed her old enthusiasm. The trip round here was probably too short. She did everything like she did last season.
“She has run great and come the line she was staying on again. We will sleep on it and make a decision where we go. Nothing is ruled out yet but first and foremost I had it in the back of the mind that Wetherby was a blip and today it showed it was.”