Champion Hurdler Katchit had to settle for second behind Snap Tie on his return to action in the WBX.COM Hurdle at Kempton.
The Alan King-trained five-year-old (4-5 favourite) looked to be going well enough as he jumped the second-last in front as long-time leader Sporazene gave way.
Philip Hobbs’ Snap Tie (11-4) was still travelling ominously, however, and just proved the stronger on the relatively short run to the line from the last.
William Hill pushed Katchit out to 8-1 favourite (from 6s) for the blue riband in March, while at the same time introducing his conqueror at 14s. VC Bet make Katchit and Binocular the 6-1 joint-favourites with Snap Tie at 14-1.
King said: “There was too much emphasis on speed today and it is a long old season. I am disappointed (not to win) but I am satisfied with the run. He will go to Cheltenham (for the Boylesports International) now.”
Sarah Hobbs, wife of the winning trainer, said: “I think chasing will have to be put on hold for the moment. The main thing with him this season is he is far more relaxed. He was just too buzzy last year.”
King’s day had started well when French import Saticon made a satisfactory transition to jumping in the Phil Dungey 40th Birthday Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
Useful form on the Flat for Andre Fabre saw Saticon sent off a warm order at 8-15 on his debut for the Barbury Castle handler.
He was one of the first under pressure but responded well to Robert Thornton to foil the late thrust of Maxwil by half a length.
“We got him at the end of July, gelded him and then gave him a break,” said King.
“He settled well and I’m very happy as I think I’ve had several beaten in this race at odds-on before.”
Blue Square cut Saticon to 25-1 for the Triumph Hurdle but Paddy Power were unchanged at 33s.
I’msingingtheblues (15-8) impressed enough on his first try over fences in the WBX.COM Now Offers Irish Racing Beginners’ Chase to assume favouritism for next year’s Arkle Trophy with one bookmaker.
A Grade Two winner over hurdles, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding carries the well-known yellow colours of John Hales and was as flawless around the Sunbury track as any of his other stars would have been.
He bounded along under Ruby Walsh and while King’s 7-4 favourite Greenbridge gave chase, he finished eight lengths adrift.
Nicholls said: “He used to be a bit of a hold-up horse but if they’re fit and they jump then you can get them out in front.
“We have spent a long time schooling the novices and he jumped fantastically.”
Blue Square make him 10-1 favourite for Cheltenham but others are more conservative with Cashmans offering 25-1. William Hill go 14-1 from 33s.
King and Nicholls crossed swords again in the WBX.COM Novices’ Hurdle where the champion trainer’s Woolcombe Folly proved too much for King’s Levera.
Woolcombe Folly, the 8-11 favourite and on a four-timer after a fruitful summer, was a candidate to be sent chasing but Nicholls spies further riches over the smaller obstacles.
It looked like he would win as he liked turning for home and although he eventually pulled two and a half lengths away, Levera put up a decent fight to make Walsh work all the way to the line.
Nicholls continued: “He’ll stay hurdling for the minute. This was an obvious race for him and he’ll probably now go for the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
“He won’t be a novice in November and real true-run handicaps might suit him better.”
It got even better for Nicholls and Walsh when 9-4 favourite Oumeyade – racing in the colours made famous by Best Mate – sauntered to an 11-length success in the WBX.COM Handicap Chase.