Despite beating the lower-rated My Petra by only a length and a half in the Durkan Group Novices’ Chase and making no impression on the Cheltenham market, connections pointed out several mitigating circumstances.
Noland, sent off at 1-4, was joined by My Petra and Psychomodo on the loop to the third-last and Ruby Walsh had to shake his mount up to regain the lead.
The advantage was made more handsome when Psychomodo took a heavy fall at the penultimate obstacle and Noland, who produced some exemplary leaps, was fully in command on the run-in.
“He has had a right blow after that and there is tonnes of improvement to come,” said Nicholls.
“He was hard to get right before his chasing debut at Folkestone and had a setback afterwards so that is just what we wanted – it was either come here or have a racecourse gallop.
“He wants a much faster pace, which he will get in the Arkle, and Ruby said he is the best jumper as a novice he has ever sat on.”
While most bookmakers kept his Arkle odds unchanged, Ladbrokes were bold enough to ease him from 3-1 to 4s.
Walsh added: “He travelled reasonably well and you can’t knock that – his jumping was impeccable.
“It was a difficult enough race and Noland is not a front-runner.
“I think I had the measure of Psychomodo when he fell and the way Noland jumps, you would like to be on the back of him in the Arkle.”
The victory was also a pleasant birthday present for Noland’s owner, John Hales.