Toubab spearheads treble to give Nicholls yard welcome boost
Fears over the health of the Paul Nicholls stable were eased somewhat by Toubab in yesterday's Kilbrittain Castle Novices' Chase at Sandown as the grey proved the highlight of a treble for the champion trainer.
Statistics can be manipulated to make a point and Nicholls had hardly been distressingly out of form, though 35 consecutive losers before Bold Chief (7/2) ended the sequence at Warwick was a poor run by his standards.
Nicholls announced this week some of his horses were coughing, but Toubab was ridden with confidence by Ruby Walsh.
An 8/11 favourite in the absence of market rival Bellvano, Toubab managed to recreate something close to his Graded level form over hurdles with a notable four-and-a half-length victory in the race commemorating Fulke Walwyn's great course specialist of the 1980s.
"I wouldn't say it's confidence, but it gives everyone a lift and it just feels better," said Nicholls' assistant, Dan Skelton. "A double in half an hour is what we needed, and there's still time left until Cheltenham, which is obviously at the forefront of everyone's minds."
Sky Watch (7/2) provided a further tonic for the Nicholls team when taking the concluding bumper to seal a double for Walsh.
Claret Cloak (2/1) was an opening winner for the newly confirmed Noel Fehily and Emma Lavelle combination in the novices' hurdle.
Lavelle decided to dispense with the services of Jack Doyle last weekend in favour of the more experienced Fehily and Claret Cloak could be one to endorse the partnership on higher stages after his 12-lengths romp.
Specialagent Alfie (8/1) delivered Nick Gifford's first winner since the death of his father Josh in the conditional jockeys' hurdle, scoring by six lengths under Tom Cannon.