Slate House claimed top honours in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
A field of seven runners went to post for the Grade One event, with Tom George’s Black Op the marginal favourite at 9-4 ahead of the Paul Nicholls-trained Master Tommytucker and Slate House from Colin Tizzard’s yard.
Master Tommytucker set out to make all the running under Harry Cobden and was still bowling along at the head of affairs when getting too tight to the fourth fence from the finish and coming to grief.
His exit left Black Op in the lead, but having ridden a patient race for much of the three-mile journey, Robbie Power was travelling ominously well in his slipstream aboard 3-1 shot Slate House.
The two battled it out all the way up the home straight – and while a slow leap at the final obstacle gave Black Op a chance, Tizzard’s charge had enough in the locker to prevail by a length and a quarter.
Slate House had fallen when back in contention for the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham on his penultimate start, before bouncing back to win a minor event at Huntingdon.
Tizzard said: “It nearly makes up for Cheltenham, but that has just worked out fine.
“Robbie is brilliant at riding like that. He goes to sleep going past the stands and you think, ‘how well is he going?’. In the middle of the back straight he pushed him up a bit and he was right on the bridle – it was a peach of a ride.
“He is a different horse this year. He has just grown into himself and we have a lovely, strong stayer now.”
Asked whether the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival could be the long-term target, the trained added: “Definitely. He looks a thorough stayer and he has beaten some good horses there.
“Whether we have a run in between now and the Festival, I don’t know. We are only in December, but I doubt he will.
“He is a proper horse now, we have a Grade One in the bag and there is still quite a bit of the season left.
“It would be nice to think he could be back for the King George next year.”
George was pleased with the performance of Black Op in defeat.
“He (Johnny Burke) said the track was sharp enough for him and that a stiffer track would suit him better,” said the Slad handler.
“There was no problem with the trip and he was staying all the way to the line.
“We have plenty of options to look forward to. I don’t know where we go now and we will just see where he is, but hopefully he will have a good spring ahead of him.”