Paul Nicholls ended a relative lean spell when saddling his first winners for 15 days as New Little Bric and Taranis provided him with a short-priced double at Sandown.
The champion trainer has been busy polishing his armour ready for totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Kauto Star’s Festival prep run next weekend and crucially proved the well-being of his string with a timely brace.
New Little Bric was first off the mark when demolishing the field in the Grade One totesport.com Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase over an extended two and a half miles to record an eight-length success.
Ruby Walsh shook the 11-10 favourite up as they bypassed the Pond Fence due to low sun and his mount was spectacular over the second-last before racing away from Aztec Warrior on the run-in.
Nicholls said: “That was good and he is a decent horse. But he won’t go to Cheltenham, there’s nothing obvious there for him, and there’s no two-and-a-half-miler at Aintree either.
“There’s a race at Kempton in a few weeks and another at Ayr later in the season and it wouldn’t bother me if he just had one more run this season.
“He is a horse for the future and if he keeps improving and we look after him, he could be a horse for three miles around Kempton at Christmas.”
High-class chaser Taranis was driven out by Walsh to oblige as the 9-4 favourite in the fiercely-competitive £50,000 totescoop6 Sandown Handicap Hurdle.
The well-backed market leader made good headway to lead over the final flight with Whispered Secret, Verasi and Kasbah Bliss filling the minor placings.
Nicholls added: “I rang his owner on Monday and said we could go for this, but it was only an afterthought.
“He hadn’t been trained for it, but he goes well fresh and he has had a good blow afterwards.
“He’ll go straight to Cheltenham now for the Ryanair Chase.”
Blue Square and William Hill left the winner unchanged at 12-1 for the Ryanair race, while Stan James went 10-1 from 14s.
In addition to Kauto Star, Royal & SunAlliance favourite Denman will have a spin next weekend, and Nicholls added: “All the Newbury horses worked today and they all went well.
“The weather looks dry until midweek so as long as the ground stays decent Kauto will run in the Aon, but if it continues to dry Silverburn is unlikely to run in the totesport Trophy.”
Vodafone Derby eighth Mountain made a winning debut over timber for Jonjo O’Neill with a workmanlike display in the Michael And Sandra Keep Ruby Anniversary Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
The former Aidan O’Brien inmate made a hash of the second-last flight, but Tony McCoy got the 5-6 favourite travelling again and he stayed on dourly up the hill to collar Counting House and collect by a length.
Coral left the four-year-old unchanged at 10-1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, with the majority of layers going 8-1 from 10s, although Ladbrokes were most impressed and cut him to 7-1.
O’Neill said: “He jumped well for most of the way apart from jumping up at the second-last. He lost three or four lengths there and it takes a good horse to come back from that.
“I might try and find another race for him before Cheltenham to give him some more experience. The Triumph is the plan, but Cheltenham isn’t the be all and end all, there are good races at Aintree and Punchestown.”
A return to the Esher circuit rejuvenated Dempsey as he put in an exhilarating performance to make all under Timmy Murphy in the Fraser Steele HBLB Handicap Chase.
Carl Llewellyn’s nine-year-old has failed to finish in two of his three starts since being brought down in last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, but was back to his best at a track where he landed his previous two chase wins.
Stan James and Labrokes cut Dempsey to 14-1 for next month’s Seasons Holidays-sponsored two-mile championship after he saw off Hasty Prince by five lengths, with Cashmans offering a standout 25-1.
Llewellyn said: “He has jumped straight and it is good to see him get round.
“He has been wary of horses in front of him since Cheltenham but I have no idea if he will go back there – I haven’t really thought about it.”
Keith Reveley has the Scottish National in mind for Rambling Minster (15-2) after he rallied in ultra-game fashion to deny Kelami by three-quarters of a length in the Agfa Diamond Handicap Chase.
Reveley said: “He has always been a decent horse, but he does appreciate good ground.
“I have always thought he is a Scottish National-type and if he is fit and well around that time then that is where he will go.”
The closing Milward Printing Novices’ Handicap Hurdle was a family affair with Jamie Moore steering his father Gary’s Or Jaune (9-2 favourite) home for a clear-cut five-length success.