Jonjo O’Neill jnr added another big-race success to his rapidly-expanding CV as Mister Malarky repelled all challengers to win the Betway Handicap Chase at Kempton.
For the third successive Saturday, O’Neill jnr teamed up to great effect with Colin Tizzard, following on from the Denman Chase success of Native River and last weekend’s Reynoldstown triumph with Copperhead.
Mister Malarky (9-1) looked a possible star when winning last year’s Reynoldstown, but after three luckless runs before Christmas, he roared back to form in this Grade Three heat.
O’Neill jnr pushed him to the front turning for home, with the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Black Corton and Sametegal doing their best to get back on terms jumping the last three obstacles.
Mister Malarky kept finding for pressure though, with a loose horse appearing to aid his task as he kept on to the line for a two-length victory over favourite Black Corton.
Sametegal took third, with the staying-on Whatmore bagging fourth place.
Tizzard said: “The ground has come right and it proves he wasn’t quite 100 per cent early on in the season. I would say that is his best ever run.
“It was a brilliant ride from Jonjo O’Neill as he was shoving him along after a mile to keep up. He never missed a beat over the final five fences.
“He is in the Ultima and I’m sure he will go there if he comes out of this race OK, as that was the idea on better ground. This is the horse we saw last season.
I’ve no doubt we will talk about the Grand National next yea
“It was probably the ground (for last run). He was a good sixth in the Ladbrokes Trophy and he definitely got stuck in the heavy ground at Ascot.
“It is 63 days since he last ran as we just couldn’t run him, but in hindsight it has been the best thing we’ve done.”
He added: “I’ve no doubt we will talk about the Grand National next year. The National is not what it used to be as they are not the fences they were. It is a good staying race and this is a really good staying handicapper now.
“I’m chuffed for the horse and Wendy and Malcolm (Hezel, owners).”