A fantastic weekend of racing included a statement performance from Bravemansgame in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
All roads now lead to Kempton on Boxing Day for the Ditcheat inmate with the King George his next target. We review the big moments from the Charlie Hall Meeting as well as the other major weekend racing stories.
It's now full steam ahead towards the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day for 9/4 Bravemansgame after he won the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase in impressive style at Wetherby.
The Paul Nicholls inmate was trumped as favourite by Lucinda Russell's Ahoy Senor as they met for a third time over fences. Bravemansgame picked Ahoy Senor off at will in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase last Christmas, but the score was levelled emphatically at Aintree in the spring.
Ahoy Senor dominated then while Bravemansgame toiled, and it was to be a role reversal in the Wetherby showpiece, Harry Cobden's partner always moving well and jumping nicely, dominating the race once Ahoy Senor had cried enough at the head of affairs.
With Nicholls having landed a record-breaking 12 King George wins, he knows the festive showpiece better than most, and he couldn't be happier with this charge.
"That's what we wanted to see," Nicholls said. "We knew we had him fairly right. He hasn't been away for a gallop anywhere because I wanted to improve from now. We've got eight weeks to get him ready for the King George and he obviously won't run before then. I've always thought the King George is made for him.
"Harry said that was the best feel he's ever given him. He felt he was in third gear all the way round, jumped fantastically well and galloped all the way to the line."
Lucinda Russell meanwhile felt Ahoy Senor was 'just too enthusiastic – he was like a kid at a party', adding that he was fine after the race on Sunday and should come on plenty for the outing.
Earlier in the afternoon it was Nicholls' former assistant Dan Skelton grabbing the headlines as he teamed up with brother Harry for a Wetherby double.
Molly Ollys Wishes was gutsy in fending off Martello Sky to retain her bet365 Hurdle crown, while Proschema proved too good for the likes of Sporting John in the Grade 2 bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle, improving on his second place of 12 months earlier and scoring for the first time since May 2021 in the process.
Molly Ollys Wishes was racing over a two-mile trip likely on the sharp side and her win was particularly satisfying for the trainer, who was fulsome in his praise for the winning rider.
"It's not the biggest race of the year but not many will give me more enjoyment than that," said Skelton.
"For those who think that Harry was a lucky champion jockey, just go and watch that. He was different class. I know it was a no-nonsense ride, sit up against the one who makes the running, but your horse and rider have got to be tough and they both were."
Sam Thomas admitted it was a relief to bag a major winner having witnessed Our Power deliver in the Bateaux London Gold Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
Our Power was a good fifth in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival in March and he dismissed any stamina worries with a strong finish to get by Danny Kirwan after the jumping was done at Ascot.
"We haven't had many runners this season, so we didn't quite know how today was going to pan out, but it's a monkey off our back to have a big one," said Thomas, who enjoyed a breakthrough season last campaign, including Iwilldoit bagging the Welsh Grand National.
"Our Power will never win by too far. He's your typical horse off the Flat – he's streetwise and is never going to overexert himself – but he's genuine and we'll aim him at the Coral Gold Cup.
"We wouldn't have got in off a mark of 135, so he had to win. Fingers crossed, that will sneak us in. You'd think a flat track like Newbury will suit him."
There was more joy for Thomas on Sunday as Good Risk At All impressed with a win at Carlisle on his seasonal comeback.
Gary Moore was left to ponder 'what next' after Goshen flopped on his eagerly anticipated chasing debut in the Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
A smart but quirky front-runner over hurdles, six-year-old Goshen set off at the head of affairs but his jumping was a touch deliberate and his rivals were soon going past him by halfway.
In the end, Goshen limped home 65 lengths behind winner Gowel Road from the Nigel Twiston-Davies team, last of three to complete. He may get one more chance on testing ground, but Moore already appears to be thinking of going back over timber with the duel Kingwell winner.
"The ground was quicker than he likes but whether he's a chaser or not I don't know – hand on heart, I don't think he is," his trainer said. "He was never getting any ground at his fences and they outjumped him.
"He got round and we might give him one more go in very soft ground over fences but otherwise it will back over hurdles. We had him out early to find out. It's lovely ground out there but he needs a bog.
"He's probably not the make and shape of a chaser even though he schooled well at home. They were controlling the race and he wasn't. They were always going better."
After Gowel Road on Saturday, a good weekend for Nigel Twiston-Davies was capped on Sunday when Beauport made a winning start over fences in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.
A three-time hurdle winner, Beauport jumped the last in front under Jordan Nailor and held on from the fast-finishing Millers Bank to take the Listed feature of Carlisle's jumps season.
Carl Llewellyn, assistant to Twiston-Davies, said: "It was a big ask coming here but it was a good prize and lovely ground so we thought we'd take our chance. I think it's probably one of the nicest places to come first time over fences. They're gorgeous fences and we just thought the track would suit him."
A tilt at the Grade 2 Berkshire Novices' Chase at Newbury towards the end of November has been mooted as the next destination for Beauport.