Copperhead strikes Reynoldstown Gold
Copperhead ran out a hugely impressive winner of what looked a hot Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot.
Colin Tizzard's charge was having his first run in graded company after two easy handicap victories, but he blew some exalted opposition away by 17 lengths.
The two market leaders, however, Sam Brown and Pym, never looked comfortable at any stage and were both pulled up a long way from home.
Paul Nicholls' Danny Whizzbang made most of the running, but in testing conditions, he had raced keenly and faded early in the straight.
That left Copperhead with just Kim Bailey's Two For Gold to beat and he soon brushed him off, powering clear over the final two fences.
Fresh from the biggest win of his fledgling career last week on Native River, jockey Jonjo O'Neill junior was adding another Grade Two to his record.
Tizzard said: "He is only six and it is not like he is a seven or eight-year-old. He is only just getting there.
"I was just chuffed how he came away from three out. The next thing you know he is 10 lengths up. The rest had stopped and he just kept going.
"The jockey as much as anything (will be a factor in which race he goes for at Cheltenham). The easier race is the (old) four-miler (National Hunt Chase) and it never did Native River any harm.
"I never thought for one moment we would go four miles, but it does look like he is a stamina horse. It is a lovely race to bring Gold Cup horses on.
"It looked to me over the first four or five fences he was flat out, but when the pace settled he was bang on it.
"He has just progressed. I was looking at him two days ago wondering why we didn't go in a handicap off 146, then you see this today.
"One or two didn't run their races, but at the end of the day he was the one finishing strongly.
"I was a bit worried all year running him in novices as I thought it might have been too soon, but it proves you can get on with them."
Alan King's mare Alsa Mix sadly suffered a fatal fall in the race.