Knowhere put himself on target for a crack at the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup by claiming the scalps of Exotic Dancer and Voy Por Ustedes in a spectacular renewal of the intercasino.co.uk Old Roan Chase at Aintree.
Seven horses approached the penultimate fence in with a chance, and it was Jonjo O’Neill’s Exotic Dancer who took the initiative soon after under Tony McCoy.
But Knowhere, representing the Nigel Twiston-Davies and Paddy Brennan combination, loves a scrap and overhauled his rival on the run-in for a length success.
Snoopy Loopy was third, with Champion Chase runner-up Voy Por Ustedes fourth. Last year’s winner Monet’s Garden trailed in seventh.
Brennan said of the 8-1 winner: “I wanted to make the race a war as I knew that if it was a war then he would win, and that is what happened. He is such a brilliant servant to the yard, he never gives in and we will try and win the Hennessy now.”
Voy Por Ustedes’ trainer Alan King added: “I am happy with that and he will definitely go to the King George, which will probably be his next race.”
Jonjo O’Neill will target the Betfair Chase with Exotic Dancer, with a trip to Ireland for the Lexus Chase over Christmas a likely target too.
Coral trimmed Voy Por Ustedes into 4-1 from 5s for the King George, while Exotic Dancer earned a 20-1 quote from the sponsors for the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Squadron paid Champion Hurdle hope Crack Away Jack a handsome compliment as Alan King’s runner took the intercasino.co.uk Four Year Old Hurdle by a yawning 18 lengths.
The 5-2 chance was easily brushed aside by the latter at Chepstow last time out, and Ladbrokes responded to his Aintree success by trimming Emma Lavelle’s Festival winner into 7-1 form 10s for the hurdling championship.
Robert Thornton appeared to have the measure of 2-5 favourite Pierrot Lunaire when he took a tired fall at the final flight, leaving Squadron to come home in his own time.
King said: “We bumped into a very good horse at Chepstow and I felt my only chance of beating the favourite was fitness.
“I thought we had Pierrot Lunaire covered when he fell, and thank goodness he got back up. He is a progressive horse and I might put him in the Greatwood Hurdle now.”
Coral eased Pierrot Lunaire out at 16s for the Smurfit Kappa-sponsored Champion Hurdle.
Coral Cup second Kicks For Free got his fencing career off to the best possible start with a bloodless win in the intercasino.co.uk Novices’ Chase.
Sporting Trevor Hemmings’ green and yellow silks, the seven-year-old has long been touted as a classy chaser and made sure that assertion was proved correct.
The Paul Nicholls-trained 4-6 favourite jumped impeccably and saw off his four rivals with the minimum of fuss, sauntering to a 19-length victory in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Nicholls said: “He started off late last year so we waited for this year to go chasing. The new two-and-a-half-mile novice chase here at the Grand National meeting will be ideal for him.
“Tidal Bay won this race last year and went on to win the Arkle. He will have an entry in that but the trip might be too short.”
Stan James trimmed him to 10-1 for the two-mile Cheltenham event, with William Hill offering 14s.
Massasoit proved his worth to Nicholls when lowering the colours of On Raglan Road in the EBF Lexus Liverpool “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Turned out for the first time in 351 days, the 6-1 chance tackled the 11-10 favourite entering the home stretch and pulled away for a smart eight-length success.
Nicholls said: “He will stay as far as you want him to but he does like the ground very soft.”
Conditional jockey Michael Murphy followed up his success in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow on Saturday afternoon with a stamina-sapping effort on Lysander (6-1) in the Liverpool Echo Handicap Hurdle.
The stewards took a dim view of his ride, though, and suspended Murphy for nine days (November 9-17) for using his whip with excessive frequency and excessive force when his mount was showing no response.
Brennan and Twiston-Davies completed a 44-1 double as 4-1 chance Tramantano landed the Silver Cross Handicap Chase, after which Tom’s Toybox’s rider Lucy Horner was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.