Al FEROF is set for a crack at the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day after giving Paul Nicholls a first Paddy Power Gold Cup with a brilliant round of jumping at Cheltenham.
Nicholls, owner John Hales and jockey Ruby Walsh have suffered heartache in this race before with the ill-fated Granit Jack but 8-1 chance Al Ferof went a long way to exorcising those demons.
Still under a tight hold at the top of the hill, where first Hunt Ball and shortly afterwards Grands Crus had run their races, Walsh was joined by another grey, Walkon, and held just a slight advantage two out.
He stamped his class on proceedings from there, defying a huge weight burden and, hard as the Alan King runner tried, he could not reel him in up the gruelling hill, finishing three lengths adrift.
Nadiya de la Vega was third with long-time leader Casey Top running a gallant race in fourth.
Nicholls said: “He came in late because he cut himself in the field, but he had a gallop at Wincanton last weekend and went really well. We’ll have to think about Kempton [King George] I suppose, he stayed well there and I think we’ll have to look at it.
“The second-season chasers of ours like him are improving, I don’t think the horses were right last year.
“The main thing is to have horses for all the big races.”