Top Notch back in business at Kempton with eyes on the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham
Nicky Henderson was delighted with his eight-year-old's return to fences revealing he suffered a setback early in the season.
He stayed on well to win the Listed 32Red Casino Chase for prominent owners Simon Munir and Isaac Soude.
Bookmakers reacted by cutting Top Notch into as short as 8-1 for the Grade 1 Ryanair over two-and-a-half-miles.
Henderson said of the 6-4 favourite: "He is very special. Simon and Isaac haven't had the greatest run recently, but when you've got a horse like this you always know he will get you out of trouble.
"He was very sick before Christmas, only because he reacted to a flu vaccination. Ascot brought him on nicely, and there we go.
"Knowing how much pace there was here, two and a half miles around Kempton – I could easily see his little feet scampering along. They turned into the back straight, picked up the bridle and always had them covered off a right good pace.
"He hasn't got the scope of other horses and he has his own way of doing it, but he is brave as well. He has been a wonderful servant.
"If you had a straw poll in the yard he would come out number one. Everyone loves him. I know there is Altior, Might Bite and Buveur D'Air, who might be better horses, but there is not a nicer horse in the place."
Looking to future plans, Henderson said: "We were thinking Ascot Chase, then the Ryanair. That is the obvious road."
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