Southfield Stone took the scalp of the highly-regarded Angels Breath to land the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton Park.
Sent off at 6-1, Paul Nicholls’ charge won despite flattening the final flight and drifting over to the stands side, holding the challenge of Angels Breath by three-quarters of a length.
Southfield Stone, who was third to Elixir De Nutz in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January, was prominent throughout.
After sharing pacemaking duties with Brecon Hill, Southfield Stone went to the front some way out and looked to have Angels Breath’s measure until the leader’s effort at the last gave the 8-11 favourite hope.
However, Southfield Stone was back on an even keel with the rail to help close home and maintained his advantage.
The six-year-old was cut to 8-1 from 14-1 for the Imperial Cup at Sandown with Betfair, who eased Angels Breath to 16-1 from 6-1 for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Nicholls, continuing in great form after eight winners last Saturday, said: “He was fit and well and jumped nicely, bar the last. He was a fit horse and we just took advantage of it.
“He didn’t really get the trip at Taunton over two-three. We thought he was all right and the plan has come off. Angels Breath to be fair has only had one run and a point-to-point and sometimes those horses do get overhyped.
“I know where he and Grand Sancy (Kingwell Hurdle winner) are and I wouldn’t probably entertain running him (Southfield Stone) in the Supreme, I would probably look for a handicap with him.
“He is in the Imperial Cup in two weeks’ time, but he might be one to leave to go to Aintree with.
“It has taken me a little bit by surprise. He is a big, improving horse, though, and will be a cracking chaser.”
Nicky Henderson took the defeat of Angels Breath on the chin and has far from lost faith.
He said: “He just took a blow at the wrong moment. It is sharp enough round here, but nobody is despondent. I still think two miles is probably the right place for him on a stiffer track.
“He had to give them all 5lb and two pulled clear and he was running on. I do think there is plenty of improvement to come.
“It was definitely the right race. Yes, he could have cantered round and beaten a load of lesser horses. It probably was quick enough ground, but there a lot of positives.
“It was disappointing that he got beat, but he is very good. He would have learned tons today as it got him in a nice pocket where he had horses behind him and round him.
“I would have thought so (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle). That is our first reaction.”