Nietzsche was a surprise winner of the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle for Malton trainer Brian Ellison and in-form conditional jockey Danny McMenamin.
The five-year-old, without a win over jumps in 11 starts since January 2017, reserved his best for the biggest stage at Cheltenham as he stayed on with great determination to foil Silver Streak’s hat-trick attempt by a neck.
In a race reduced to just five flights of hurdles because of the low sun, Nietzsche made the most of his minimum weight of 10st – and his jockey’s 7lb allowance – stealing into contention before what became the second-last and holding off a sustained challenge from Evan Williams’s runner-up.
Ellison said: “It’s fantastic. This horse was third in the (2017) Fred Winter and for some reason he just lost his way last winter.
“We just decided to put a tongue strap on him as we scoped him and we couldn’t find anything wrong with him. We ran him at Newmarket with it on and he ran well, so we left it on.
“I was very optimistic as he has run some good races here. I was just worried he hit the front too early.”
Of the winning rider, Ellison added: “He works at Nicky Richards’s and I watched him and I spoke to his agent Richard Hale and he thinks he is good.
“I used him the other day and he gave that a great ride, so he was worth taking the claim off.”
Ellison recently enjoyed a trip to the Breeders’ Cup meeting with The Mackem Bullet, and said: “America was good, but it was not as good as here.
“This was the plan as the owner lives here so it is fantastic for him. He will be in those kind of races like what was the Ladbroke.”
Williams is now eyeing a step up in class for Silver Streak.
He said: “I did think he was going to get there. The horse has run a great race and the winner had been third in a Fred Winter and we had forgot about him a bit.
“I don’t think we are worried about the ground, but the handicapper will probably stop us winning handicaps as I’m sure he will go up. We will probably dip our toe into a conditions race somewhere.
“I imagine the International is a race we could look at. The race I wanted to win was the Welsh Champion Hurdle, which he has done. We were beaten fair and square.”
Sceau Royal made a winning start to his new season with a hard-fought two-and-a-quarter-length success in the Shloer Chase.
Alan King’s six-year-old, racing for the first time since a suspensory injury curtailed his novice season after a win at Doncaster in January, had to dig deep under Daryl Jacob to see off outsider Simply Ned.
Nicky Richards’s 28-1 shot pushed the 5-4 favourite all the way, but after jumping upsides at the second-last and then holding a slender lead at the last, Sceau Royal had a little in hand to hold the rallying runner-up.
King said: “It was lovely. I couldn’t be happier with him really. He is slick. I don’t think I’ve trained a quicker jumper.
“He has been off a long time. We’ve had no hold-ups this autumn and we’ve not missed a beat. You always worry slightly after being off with an injury, but this was the only place to start him.”
King is now targeting the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on December 8 and a likely clash with reigning two-mile champion Altior.
The trainer added: “It’s the logical place to go. We had put him in the Fighting Fifth, but I can assure you he will not be going for the Fighting Fifth. It scares the life out me taking on Altior, but why not? Someone has got to take him on.
“This horse has won round Sandown and we are going to be match-fit, but we are under no illusions. He won the Henry VII last season and he loves Sandown, so we will have a crack and see.
“The main thing is that he is all right in the morning.
“All those two-milers I’ve had have been pretty slow and he is a slow horse at home. I have to be quite careful what I work him with, but it is what they do on track that matters.”
Lalor laid down a marker that he could be a serious contender at next year’s Cheltenham Festival with victory in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase.
Now trained by Kayley Woollacott following the sudden death of her husband Richard in January, the six-year-old looked a potential star with a seven-length victory in the Grade Two contest.
Woollacott said of the 11-2 winner: “It was just amazing. I wasn’t watching by the second-last. I saw he had got to the front and that was it. At Aintree in April it was very overwhelming and it got sucked in a little bit by everything else, but we had a proper break in the summer and this was in our own right. It was his (Richard’s) favourite horse and he said he would be the best thing we ever got our hands on, and it is great the owners still have him with me and allow me to do it.”