Knappers Hill got off the mark over fences with an exceptional display in the Boodles “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton.
A winner of the Elite Hurdle on the card 12 months ago, the seven-year-old suffered defeat on his chasing bow at Chepstow but took a huge step forward at the Somerset track, producing a foot-perfect round of jumping in the hands of Harry Cobden.
It enhanced trainer Paul Nicholls’ exceptional record in the race, with Betfair cutting Knappers Hill to 20-1 from 33-1 for the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Knappers Hill was sporting the famous colours of Paul Barber, Nicholls’ late landlord and close friend whose two sons, Chris and Giles, now own the gelding in partnership with Paul Vogt.
Nicholls said: “It is great that all of Paul’s family are here today. Paul would have been proud of that. He has been so good to me, and I’ve missed him a lot this year. He left a big hole in my life. This has been the target, to try to win this.
“I’m a bit emotional really as Paul would have loved that. He loved that horse as well. He went to see him every day. To see him win in his colours, he would have absolutely loved that. That was brilliant.
“We purchased him together at the Goffs Land Rover [stores] sale and he has just never stopped winning. He will run in Paul’s colours this season which is brilliant. The boys will love this.”
Nicholls suggested Newbury’s Coral John Francome Novices’ Chase on December 1 as a possible next port of call.