Paul Nicholls has a select team to take to Cheltenham next week and heads there in buoyant mood, having broken the GBP2million prize barrier as Complete Unknown took the EBF Paddy Power National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Final in tremendous style.
Lorcan Williams’ mount had shown plenty in defeat to Jerrash at Ascot 49 days previous, and he made smooth progress, striking the front in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade Three event and drawing an easy three lengths clear of Marble Sands (11-1), with Dubrovnik Harry (15-2) and Mumbo Jumbo (16-1) filling the minor honours.
The 11-1 winner’s stablemate, Knappers Hill, was sent off the 9-2 favourite but failed to handle the easy ground and finished a well-beaten 15th.
Nicholls said: “Of course it is a big boost for the yard ahead of such an important week. This was the perfect race for him. There was no point in him going to Cheltenham. After he ran at Ascot we just trained him for today.
“All the rain overnight helped him and went completely against Knappers Hill and even half an hour ago I was in two minds whether to wait for Cheltenham with Knappers Hill but he wasn’t certain to get in that race, and with 11st 12lb in that ground and all that rain, it didn’t help him.
“The winner loves it soft, he is an improving young horse and he will be a lovely chaser next year. Whatever he achieves this year is a bonus.
“We might be able to find another race for him before the end of the season.
“I don’t know how he got beat the last day at Ascot, he did everything right. He is progressive and getting stronger.
“I did fancy him. He is a galloper and three miles will be his trip.”
He added: “I always like to try to get GBP2m of prize-money before Cheltenham – we haven’t done that very often, so that is a fair effort and the horses are all running really well.
“We are in-form now and long may it last. All the Cheltenham horses worked well this morning and we are looking forward to it.”