Second Grade 1 for Nicholls as Diego Du Charmil denies Petit Mouchoir
Many regarded Petit Mouchoir as one of the bankers of the week in the absence of Footpad and Brain Power, but Paul Nicholls had other ideas.
Cheltenham might have left its mark on the Racing Post Arkle Chase third, but he would have needed to be on his mettle to have beaten Diego Du Charmil.
Nicholls had concerns about the ground, but he was confident Diego Du Charmil was better than he had been able to show to date and the six-year-old delivered him a seventh win in the Doom Bar Maghull Novices' Chase in style, jumping and travelling well and quickening away after the second-last for a two-and-a-half length success.
It was a second Grade 1 win of the week for the stable, following Politologue on Friday, and Nicholls was understandably thrilled.
He said: "I'm not at all surprised. He would've bolted in at Ascot the other day as he was doing a half-speed when he fell. He's just a progressive horse and he's fresh. The ground was a big worry, but he's just getting stronger."
He added: "I haven't been able to do much with him as he was a millimetre away from a fatal injury when struck into at Newton Abbot and we had to wait. We skipped the Grand Annual on account of the ground, and this was the plan.
"He's a good horse, he just wants to mature a bit. He's got a load of toe, he jumps well, and there's a lot to come. I don't think he'll run again, unless Altior didn't turn up at Sandown."
If Cheltenham was good to jockey Harry Cobden, with a Grade 1 novice hurdle win on Kilbricken Storm, Aintree has been even better, as he landed a second Topham Chase on Ultragold less than 24 hours earlier.
He said: "What impressed me most is that he jumped so slickly. I probably could've let him travel down to the last, but I wanted to secure the deal in case he missed it out. He's a lovely horse and he's improving all of the time.
"I'm so pleased for Johnny De La Hey, the owner, who puts in so much time and effort trying to buy the right horses. He spends a good few quid and it's great that he's been rewarded with a good one."
Trainer Henry de Bromhead admitted Petit Mouchoir was "a bit disappointing", and added: "He got lit up in the paddock and before the race but that's him and we can't use that as an excuse.
"We'll have to see now whether he goes to Punchestown."
On to next season
The De La Heys had a hiccup in Friday's bumper, when the highly regarded Danny Kirwan ran no race, but Nicholls blames himself.
He said: "I hate making mistakes but I made a big one. I should have turned him out after his win, but it's better running as badly as that than finishing fifth or sixth. I can't wait to start again next season."
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