The Greatwood Gold Cup is normally all about Paul Nicholls, but it was another West Country big gun who hit the target thanks to the stylish success of David Pipe's unexposed novice Umbrigado.
The BetVictor-backed Grade 3 has been won by Nicholls' Somerset yard a record nine times, but his Capeland and Grand Sancy made little impact behind the 13-2 winner.
Umbrigado, who was given a composed ride by David Noonan, has entries at the Cheltenham Festival, but Pipe will consult owners John White and Anne Underhill before firming up plans. Festival or no festival, they have a progressive horse who is now three from four over fences.
"I travelled very strongly throughout," said the impressed Noonan. "To do that in a competitive handicap means he should have a bright future.
"The owners are very much about putting the horse first, but on what he's done today they'd have to have a serious look at Cheltenham because that was a very good performance, although we're not too far away from the festival."
Noonan, whose biggest win came on Warthog in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham last season, added: "This season has been quieter. We've had a shorter start with Covid-19, but rides-wise I'm busy, winners-wise I'm a bit quiet. Hopefully a nice one like today will help get me noticed again."
Pipe also won the novice handicap hurdle with the Fergus Gillard-ridden Iron Heart.
First course win tees up Buckley
Golf's loss seems to be racing's gain after conditional Tom Buckley made his first ride at the Berkshire venue a winning one on Always Resolute in the seniors' handicap hurdle.
Based with Charlie Longsdon, Buckley is from a racing family and grew up riding ponies, but was nearly lost to the links.
"I was going to be a golfer, but the horses took over when I left school and I haven't looked back," the 20-year-old said. "I'd say I'm all right at golf without wanting to sound big-headed.
"I haven't played with any of the lads yet and I'll give them a shout in the summer when things are back to normal, but I think they know I'm pretty handy already."
Fry thrilled with Sir Ivan
Sir Ivan's consistency was rewarded when he struck in the veterans' chase under Lorcan Murtagh.
"Lorcan got a great tune out of him," said winning trainer Harry Fry. "I'm delighted for the horse, who deserved to get his head in front. The Eyre family, who own him, are ecstatic – they're bouncing down the end of the phone.
"He's very consistent and keeps running to his mark, so I wanted to keep him to these veterans' races where you're not meeting unexposed rivals."
Bank in credit with Hales
Millers Bank impressed with a comfortable ten-length success in the 2m½f handicap hurdle, but Alex Hales can't wait for him to go over fences.
Hales, who trains the seven-year-old for the enthusiastic Steve Bocking, said: "It's a boring old trainer cliche, but this horse is all about chasing. He's hugely exciting and there's so much to look forward to."