Fusil Raffles claimed victory in a dramatic renewal of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.
All the attention ahead of the Grade 2 contest was on defending champion Cyrname, who was a fine winner last year before his season tailed off and he underwent wind surgery over the summer.
Sent off an 85/40 chance, Cyrname took up his usual prominent position through the early stages and was still in front until Harry Skelton decided to kick on aboard 2/1 favourite Shan Blue at the turn for home.
The second-season chaser quickly built up a healthy lead only to get the third-last all wrong and crash out.
That gave the rest of the field a second bite of the cherry and it was Fusil Raffles and Daryl Jacob who seized the advantage, jumping the penultimate fence in the lead.
He then cleared the last in fine style to secure a four-and-a-half-length success over Kitty’s Light with Clondaw Castle back in third.
Cyrname was pulled up before the last and Nicholls reported his charge to have suffered breathing issues again.
He said: “He choked again and once he choked, that was it. One minute he was going and the next he wasn’t.”
Dan Skelton was philosophical after Shan Blue fell with the race seemingly at his mercy.
“The horse is all right, Harry’s all right. Good jumpers, when they have a fall, they have a bad fall. It wasn’t very nice but he’s okay, he’d have hacked up,” he said.
“The fence is in the wrong spot, what can you do? It’s happened to Ruby Walsh. These things happen. I was delighted with him, we know he’s a very, very good horse.
“He’s in the Hennessy and he’ll have an entry in the King George. We’ve just got to see, but it was terribly frustrating.
“Everyone’s all right, it’s just racing. One minute you’re winning a two-mile race with Molly Ollys Wishes, the next minute that happens.
“You can’t dwell on it, the horse is OK, we know he’s a good horse. We’re missing a trophy today, but at least we’re not missing a horse.”