Dodging Bullets had the right ammunition to take the 888Sport Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
With crack two-milers Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy on the sidelines, 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 to 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 the gallant Somersby to give Nicholls a ninth winner in a race 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’ll get 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.
Yesterday Wishfull Thinking continued to defy his advancing years as he put up a bold display of jumping to make virtually every yard in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
Being run for the first time on a Sunday, racegoers were treated to a thrilling renewal, with the Philip Hobbs-trained winner a sight to behold at many of his fences, coming in the wake of his victory under a big weight in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree and third to Al Ferof at Ascot.
However, he had 7-4 favourite Eduard for company at the business end as the pair jumped two out together, with Nicky Richards’ market leader looking like he might have the upper hand coming to the last.
He had a narrow advantage at that obstacle but was not totally fluent and Richard Johnson and the soon-to-be 12-year-old Wishfull Thinking (13-2) rallied strongly to surge back to the front. Eduard could not get back at the winner but held Wonderful Charm for second. Johnson said: “This is a horse that stays very well and he gave it 110 per cent. He got done for speed the last day but jumped lovely here and I think he is as well as he’s ever been, despite being 11. He’s so much more relaxed nowadays.”
Sarah Hobbs, wife of the winning trainer, said: “Richard did say that the wind was a bit of a problem and the ground was tacky as well, but he coped with it and he’s so brave.”