A crack at Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase could be next on the agenda for Briareus after he made a winning comeback for Andrew Balding at Kempton.
The 2006 Champion Hurdle sixth was trimmed to 25-1 from 50s with Coral for the Boxing Day showpiece after lowering the colours of another Paul Nicholls inmate in the kempton.co.uk Graduation Chase.
I’msingingtheblues was an odds-on favourite to follow up last month’s success at the Sunbury track, but eight-year-old Briareus came with a late lunge to deny the market leader by a length.
The 4-1 winner, who had been off since December 2006 with leg trouble, also provided Paddy Brennan with his 50th success of the campaign.
Balding said: “He wants a flat track and likes his races spaced out so we will look at the King George next. I think he is ready for a step up in distance.”
Balding earlier chalked up his second win of the 2008 National Hunt season as Show Winner (10-1) collected in the Book Kempton Tickets On 0844 5793008 Novices’ Hurdle.
Balding added: “It was a hot race he ran in first time at Cheltenham, but he stayed on and jumped well so I was reasonably confident we could take the race to them today.
“A flat track and a good gallop suits him down to the ground, and hopefully he can win a nice handicap at some point.”
Nicholls came off second best to Briareus and was in the runner-up berth on three occasions during the afternoon, including in the Book Now For Boxing Day “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
The champion trainer fielded another odds-on favourite in Tataniano, but he lost out to Alan King’s Shalone, who completed a three-timer in less fortunate circumstances than last time out at Exeter.
The 5-2 winner was booked for second on his most recent visit to the racecourse, only to be gifted the race when a Nicholls runner took a dive on the run-in.
King said: “He had good bumper form and I have been happy with his work, but he was fortunate at Exeter to beat Paul’s horse.
“He came on for that and Christian said he will come on again.”
Nicholls was also on the premises in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle with Nakai - but the smooth-travelling seven-year-old found Nicky Henderson’s 5-2 favourite Duc De Regniere over three lengths too good.
Henderson said: “He had a wonderful summer and came back in looking fantastic.
“It was a difficult decision to start back over hurdles but it is more difficult deciding where to go next.
“He ought to be back over fences and he has the talent to jump fences but is a touch fragile structurally.”
Trainer Suzy Smith and jockey Wayne Kavanagh enjoyed their first wins for 129 and 172 days respectively as the former Henry Daly-trained Royal Kicks (5-1) put his sound jumping to good use
in the Panoramic Bar & Restaurant Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Not many got into the closing rounds of the three-mile TFM Networks Handicap Chase with 8-1 chance Ashwell running out a 29-length winner.