Sanctuaire and Walsh impress at Kempton
Trainer Philip Hobbs was absent, still nursing the broken ankle he sustained when staying with fellow handler Nigel Twiston-Davies earlier in the month, but owner Graham Whateley - who hailed King George runner-up Captain Chris as having "run like a lion" - was delighted to see the 7/2 winner return to form.
"I'm delighted, I knew he was in good condition and Philip said he'd never looked better," he said. "He jumped one fence very big but pinged the rest. We'd always aimed for the Peterborough, even when it was at Huntingdon, then Exeter and we're very pleased to see him win at Kempton. Everyone is asking if he is going to go to the Ryanair, but I never like to make any plans - the most important thing is to get him back home and see how he is tomorrow."
Paul Nicholls fired back after a quiet St Stephen's Day with an impressive winner in the opening contest.
Tweedledrum provided young trainer Tom Symonds and conditional jockey Ben Poste with a second high-profile victory in the William Hill — New iPad App Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.
A 33-1 chance when striking at Ascot last month, the mudlark was again rather discounted at 16-1 here but managed to scrape home by three-quarters of a length from Silver Gypsy.
“She was my first runner as a trainer, I couldn’t win with her last year but she’s repaying me in spades,” said Herefordshire-based Symonds. “She’s been very hard to figure out and she does need this ground, so we will have to keep trying to make hay while the rain falls.”
Irish Saint skipped 18 lengths clear of his rivals, headed by McVicar, to make a winning British debut in the William Hill - iPad App Now Available Juvenile Hurdle.
Sent off the 10/11 favourite to follow up his victory on his only previous appearance in France, Irish Saint earned a 14/1 quote with Sky Bet for the Triumph Hurdle.
"He's a horse I want to look after as we view him as a chaser but he deserves a chance to go for something better now," said Nicholls. "I suppose he could come out again at the end of January at either Cheltenham or Haydock."
However the reigning champion trainer stressed that he still has other bullets still to fire with well over two months still to go before the Triumph.
"At the moment, Far West is very much my number one, but there are others still to come out, a couple of ex-Flat horses and another horse from France called Caid du Berlais," he said. "He would have run at Chepstow on Welsh National day in the Finale and might wait for the rescheduled meeting there in a week's time."