McFabulous stamped his class on the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton.
The Grade Two bumper winner was disappointing on his first couple of starts over obstacles last winter, but having got his act together in the new year with wins at Market Rasen and in the EBF Final at Kempton, he made a successful return in October’s Persian War at Chepstow.
The seven-year-old’s winning run came to an end in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury the following month, but he was far from disgraced in finishing third behind the top-class pair of Thyme Hill and Paisley Park, and he was the 10-11 favourite to land this Grade Two prize, rescheduled from Cheltenham’s abandoned New Year’s Day card.
There were a few worrying moments for his supporters during the early stages, with a couple of untidy leaps putting McFabulous on the back foot and briefly taking him to the rear of the field under Harry Cobden.
But the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding made stealthy headway racing down the back straight and eased clear in the end – passing the post with just over two lengths in hand over On The Blind Side.
All class – McFabulous cruises to victory at Kempton
Nicholls said: “This trip (two and a half miles) suits him. He will have an entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, just in case it falls apart or something, but I guess I’d nearly keep him fresh for Aintree. I think Aintree over two and a half would suit him well.
“A fresh, flat track would suit him as well. We might then look at Sandown on the last day of the season as there is a lovely race for him there over two-five, then we can go chasing in the autumn as that is his job.
“We tried the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and he wasn’t beaten far, but I’m not convinced I want to give him a hard race against those horses at this stage of his career if he is going to be a super chaser.
“I see him as an ideal horse for the Kauto Star (Novices’ Chase, at Kempton) next season.”
Paul Nicholls spoke to Lydia Hislop on Racing TV after the success of McFabulous
Of more immediate plans, he added: “You could look at the National Spirit Hurdle as it is a valuable race, but it is usually desperate ground and I wouldn’t be keen to run him.
“If we go to Aintree we could do that. I will talk to the boys. They are keen to have an entry for Stayers’ Hurdle, but it doesn’t convince me after Newbury. I think Aintree would be really good for him.
“He has got loads of natural speed and ability. He has come back in the winner’s enclosure with his tail in the air and it hardly looked like he had a race.”
Olly Murphy was delighted with third-placed Thomas Darby, saying: “He ran an absolute cracker and is crying out for three miles.
“It was a very encouraging run. He missed three out, but he was travelling well throughout the race.
“I was desperate to run him at Leopardstown over Christmas, but we couldn’t get there for one reason or another.
“The three-mile Grade One at Aintree will be his ultimate aim, as opposed to the Stayers’ Hurdle. There was a lot of positives to take out of that.”
McFabulous was Paul Nicholls’ fifth winner of the day, and the champion trainer later recorded a superb seven-timer thanks to the victory of Master Tommytucker in the Silviniaco Conti Chase.
Tommytucker survives scare at the last
He was brave at the last! Watch how Master Tommytucker scored at Kempton
Master Tommytucker secured the biggest success of his career with a fine front-running performance in the Ladbrokes Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.
The lightly-raced 10-year-old made it three wins from five starts over fences this season by taking his form to new levels with victory in the Grade Two.
All eyes were on Imperial Aura, who was bidding for a second success at the level, but the evens favourite was an early casualty after parting company with David Bass at the second fence.
Jumping well out in front, Master Tommytucker continued to extend his advantage with his two remaining rivals hard at work in behind him entering the home straight.
Despite getting the last all wrong, the 2-1 shot was quickly gathered in by Harry Cobden before crossing the line 12 lengths clear of Clondaw Castle.
Paul Nicholls discusses future plans for Master Tommytucker
Nicholls said: “Apart from the last, he jumped great there. Harry nursed him down the back full of running. How many times do you see horses do that at the last?
“He has got a huge engine and he is definitely better on a track like this rather than Cheltenham. A small field suits him better as well.
“At Haydock he went a gallop in heavy ground – he would gallop all day. The trip is not a problem to him anywhere. I’ve got no doubt there is a Grade One in him.
“I kick myself for running him at Cheltenham (last month) as it was too soon after Haydock, but Harry got off him and said this will be the making of him.”
Although Master Tommytucker holds entries in both the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, the Ditcheat handler believes he would be better suited by heading to Aintree instead.
Nicholls said: “He is the Ryanair and the Gold Cup. We will have a chat with the owners and I know they will dream to run him in a race like that.
“To me he would be awesome at Aintree in that two-and-a-half-mile race around there. That would be made for him and the last day at Sandown, the two-mile-six race there would suit him well.
“I could definitely see him lining up in next year’s King George. He likes it around here and he has got huge ability.”
As for Imperial Aura’s trainer Kim Bailey, he felt a shadow in front of the fence was the reason behind the favourite’s departure.
Bailey said: “David Bass said there was a great big shadow in front of the fence and that’s his excuse. He said there was a big shadow there and he took his eye off it.
“He will go to Cheltenham now, but for what race is rather difficult to work out. I’d imagine he will go straight there.
“There is only one other race to run him in and that’s the Ascot Chase, but that’s three weeks before Cheltenham which is too soon. The lucky suit is now out of the window!”
Sage creates big impression
Sage Advice made a victorious jumps debut in the Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.
The Dr Richard Newland-trained four-year-old added to his sole Flat win for former handler Joseph Murphy with a stylish success in the two-mile prize.
Travelling well throughout, the 7-4 favourite only needed shaking up by Sam Twiston-Davies on the run to the last before going on to score by six lengths.
Twiston-Davies said: “He took to it well, jumped well and relaxed well. He picked up the horse of Olly Murphy’s (Tinnahalla) quite nicely and jumped the last well and got the job done, which was the main thing.
“What I was impressed with was how he quickened up on quite holding stuff. We could have a look (at something like the Adonis).
“This is a new owner to the Newland team and he has plenty of juveniles and he compares quite similarly to a lot of the others, so hopefully he can progress.”
Barbados Buck’s will have his sights raised on his next start after completing a hat-trick for the season in the Play Ladbrokes 1-2 Free On Football Novices’ Hurdle.
Having registered back-to-back wins at Southwell, the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old once again demonstrated stamina is his forte in the extended three-mile prize as he successfully shouldering a 10lb penalty to victory.
One of a handful of runners in with a chance turning for home, the 2-1 favourite responded well to pressure between the final two flights before drawing clear to defeat runner-up Fedelta by four lengths.
Nicholls said: “He is a three-mile chaser in time. It was a fair thing to keep galloping with a 10lb penalty like that. He is just a nice horse.
“He was fit and well and handled the soft. These sort of horses wouldn’t want it quick.
“There are plenty of good races for him, but he wouldn’t want to run for a month to six weeks.
“I hadn’t thought about it (Albert Bartlett), but Harry (Cobden, jockey) said we should probably give him an entry.”
Bill causes 66-1 upset in Lanzarote
Emma Lavelle and Ben Jones celebrated another notable winner together as Boreham Bill sprang a 66-1 surprise in the Ladbrokes Lanzarote Hurdle.
Having teamed up to strike gold in last year’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury with De Rasher Counter, the pair proved a lethal combination once again in the competitive Listed prize.
Held up wide amongst runners during the early stages of the two-mile-five-furlong contest, the nine-year-old steadily worked his way into contention before forging clear down to the last.
Although bottom weight Misty Whisky finished with a flourish, the Harry Fry-trained mare could not bridge the gap, with two and a quarter lengths separating the pair at the post.
Lavelle said: “It has taken me time to work this horse out. We thought he was better going left-handed as he always jumps out to the left. We were looking for slightly nicer ground and that is why we came here last time and that was a cracking run.
Emma Lavelle on Boreham Bill
“We came here today thinking for a horse rated 132 we didn’t have many options, so we thought we would look at this. I would be lying if I said we came here thinking we had an absolute sure thing, but he has run an absolute corker.
“If I’m honest, they probably went too hard in front, which put paid to Shang Tang (other runner) and probably set the race up a little bit for Boreham Bill.”
Lavelle believes the tactics employed by rising star Jones were key to the success.
She added: “Ben had him in a great position. He was wider on the slightly better ground, which was less chewed up, and the horse loved it out there.
“He had clear view of his hurdles and he has galloped all the way home. He made a mistake at the last when it looked like he was going to win last time and Ben was certain he didn’t want to make that mistake again.
“Ben has been great, He is a good, young rider that is brave and he has had some very good results for us.”
A delighted Ben Jones discusses Boreham Bill’s success
Regarding future plans, the Grade One-winning trainer will let the dust settle before mapping out a target.
She added: “We will have a look and see what is out there. It is a big step up delivering in a race like this. I think we will enjoy this and not make any plans on where we go next, but keep all our options open.”