Sparkling G2 chasing debut for Milan's Santini
The Nicky Henderson-trained Santini (6g Milan-Tinagoodnight, by Sleeping Car) made the perfect start to life over fences with a taking victory in the G2 John Francome Novices' Chase at Newbury on Saturday.
Ridden by Nico de Boinville, the son of Milan jumped well throughout and travelled stylishly into contention approaching the final fence.
Santini delivered a neat leap at the last and ran on strongly to master Rocky's Treasure to win going away at the line by four lengths.
Henderson was delighted with Santini's performance and earmarked the G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day as a potential target for the gelding.
A G1 winner over hurdles last term, Santini is a 4/1 shot with Ladbrokes for the G1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Henderson said: "We're very pleased with Santini. I was nervous about the ground. He is a beautiful, big horse who is quite laid back with life at home.
"We only schooled Santini on grass on Thursday, which is the first time that we have managed to get on it all year, and it just flicked a switch with him. I wasn't concerned about his jumping, but his fitness as you can't give him enough work.
"I thought it was a great performance and I'm thrilled with him. Nico gave him a lovely ride, letting him find his feet. He jumped a couple of fences big, but he is still learning and will come on any amount. I thought that ground would find him out big time, especially first time out. He is a gross horse, who is very lazy at home, but fences wake him up.
"He is a G1 hurdler and he has his life in front of him. I think the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton is the natural next step for him. There are very few races he can run in between now and then anyway."
Santini was home-bred by his owners, Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes.