Dodging Bullets had the right ammunition to take the 888Sport Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
With crack two-milers Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy sidelined, the way was clear for a new name on the Grade One roll of honour and Sam Twiston-Davies and his mount were full of running two out.
Going on from Somersby, who had been at the head of affairs throughout, the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old never looked like stopping up the hill. Hinterland was third for Nicholls in the hands of Noel Fehily.
Sent off at 9-1, the winner scored by two and a half lengths from Somersby to give Nicholls a ninth winner of a race in which he has enjoyed tremendous moments with the likes of Kauto Star and Master Minded.
Twiston-Davies said: “Paul has had a great Saturday, and it’s great that I can do my bit as well. It was a lovely race to ride in. They went a nice gallop and I always had one to aim at, so it worked out well. This is why this is an amazing job. To ride horses like this, I’m very lucky.”
Nicholls said: “I thought he’d win the last day at Cheltenham, but it looked like he needed it. He’s always been a hard horse to train as he’s very buzzy.
“We’ve been hard on him since his last run. Today was the best he’s ever looked and he was as fit as he’ll ever be. Horses like him have to be at their very best and he was. The Champion Chase will be our aim now. He’s getting stronger and better and we know how to train him now. We’ll get him at his best at Cheltenham and he should be there with a chance.”
Michael Channon jnr said of Somersby: “Brilliant. The old warrior is still going. He ran a blinder. He likes it up front. We did that in the Queen Mother and he seems to jump a lot better. He makes fewer mistakes and has his own way a bit more. Dad isn’t here as he’s in Barbados!”
There was a sad postscript to the race as the popular Oscar Whisky had to be put down as a result of injuries he suffered in a fall.
n At Kelso today, the feature event is the £30,000 Persimmon Homes Borders National.
A field of ten dour stayers are in the line-up, including home-bred Scotswell, who was a gallant runner-up to Royale Knight 12 months ago. His Jedburgh trainer, Harriet Graham, also clerk of the course at Perth and Musselburgh, said: “It’s always a huge bonus getting James Reveley to ride him and I expect him to run very well. He doesn’t have to lead, but he loves bowling along in fron. He was only just caught last year and I think he’s on a better mark this time.”
Among those opposing Scotswell are Virtuel D’Oudon and Union Jack D’Ycy from the yards of David Pipe and Venetia Williams respectively. Malcolm Jefferson’s Sun Cloud will have his supporters, too, after landing the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick last season.
Four-time Kelso scorer Always Right would be a popular winner of the John Wade Champion Chase – a race named in his honour.