It was another day of celebration for champion trainer Paul Nicholls and Knappers Hill provided some more icing on the cake when taking the bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle.
Bereft of much pace, the two-mile event clearly did not play into the hands of the six-year-old, who was conceding upwards of 6lb to his 11 rivals.
Yet Harry Cobden’s mount, sent off the 3/1 favourite, underlined his quality with some ease, kicking for home off the bend and coasting to a four-and-a-half-length success over Boombawn (11/1), with Alto Alto (18/1) a further half length back in third.
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Royal Ascot Trials Day
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Though disappointing in the EBF Final here in March, he had easily landed a novice hurdle last week and Nicholls said: “He is a really nice horse and we knew we had to qualify at Newton Abbot and we kept him fresh for that. That race brought him on a bit and he has done that nicely off top weight.
“He was sixth in the Betfair Hurdle off a mark of 135 and it was inexperience that got him a bit behind. On that form I knew he was going to be hard to beat today.
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“He just loves good ground. The time I ran him in the EBF was probably an error, really. The owners were keen to go because they didn’t really want to go to Cheltenham that week with him.”
Paul Nicholls (right) poses with champion conditional jockey Kevin Brogan, champion jockey Brian Hughes and leading owner JP McManus
He added: “A race like the Gerry Fielden would be a good starting point. Good to soft would be the worst ground he’d want. He’ll mature a bit through the summer be an improving hurdler with a bit of luck.
“He has to improve, but he just might. He’s gone round there and carried top weight and you wouldn’t know he has had a race. He has huge ability, but has very much been a baby this year. He has learned a lot today and proved what a good horse he is. I think there’s lots to come.”