Greaneteen bounced back to his brilliant best to successfully defend his crown in the bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown on Saturday.
The eight-year-old was one of five winners on the end-of-season card for trainer Paul Nicholls who was crowned champion for the 13th time.
Greaneteen proved too strong for the subsequently retired Altior when landing the Grade 1 prize 12 months ago and returned to Sandown to add the Tingle Creek to his big-race CV in December.
?? Greaneteen - imperious in the G1 2022 Celebration Chase to improve his fine record at the track— Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 23, 2022
???? G1 Celebration Chase
?? G1 Tingle Creek Chase
A treble for @PFNicholls & @CobdenHarry pic.twitter.com/GFqakRWoVy
Despite failing to fire when last seen in action at Leopardstown, Greaneteen was the 11/8 favourite to make it back-to-back wins under Harry Cobden, taking over from the injured Bryony Frost.
After initially tracking his pacesetting stablemate Rouge Vif, Cobden sent Greaneteen to the lead racing down the back straight, with Harry Skelton quickly covering the move aboard his main market rival Nube Negra.
But it was clear soon after jumping the third fence from the finish that the leader had far more left in the locker and he powered clear from the home turn to score by 12 lengths.
Sceau Royal came through to beat a tiring Nube Negra to the runner-up spot.
Nicholls said: “We thought all of them had good chances today and it is an amazing day. You try to get these horses right for these special days. The ground is wonderful here, which is just what we want.
“The ground was too soft for Greaneteen in Ireland. He’s probably not a February-type horse. He is good in the spring and the autumn.
“He did get an injury to his eye out there. Some mud got into it and he has had three visits to the vet. He is going in on Monday to have surgery on his eye to remove an ulcer. It is minor, but we have had to deal with that since, but we knew he was ready for today.
“He goes an end-to-end gallop here. He keeps galloping and you have to jump around here, which he does well and he stays on strong. Harry was really impressed today – he just keeps on improving – and he never gets the credit he deserves. He is a very smart horse on his day.
“Everyone keeps making excuses for the others, but he just keeps winning and that’s what you want in a good horse – keep winning.
“This track suits him and the Tingle Creek will be the target next year and this race afterwards. It is good prize money and whether Cheltenham suits him, I don’t know. He was only beaten two lengths last year in the Champion Chase, but this track suits him. The Tingle Creek will be the main target in the autumn.”
Earlier Saint Calvados produced a dominant front-running display to claim top honours in the bet365 Oaksey Chase.
A field of just four runners went to post for the Grade 2 contest, with King George third Saint Calvados the even-money favourite to register his first victory since joining Nicholls.
There was drama at the start, with last year’s runner-up Mister Fisher shying away when the tapes went up, which allowed Saint Calvados to establish an early buffer over his three rivals.
Having worked his way back into contention, Mister Fisher closed up to within a couple of lengths jumping the Pond Fence, but Harry Cobden had kept something up his sleeve aboard the market leader, who soon asserted once more.
The nine-year-old sealed his victory with a typically bold leap at the final obstacle and passed the post with 16 lengths in hand.
Cobden and Nicholls were completing a quick-fire double following the earlier success of Knappers Hill in the opener.
“That was a nice win. He deserved to win a race like that. Contrary to what it looks like – that he doesn’t stay – I actually do think he stays,” said Nicholls.
“We haven’t had him really right and we are learning about him all the time. I actually think we can get him fitter next year if we don’t have the problems we have had.
“I’m convinced he wants three (miles). He galloped all the way to the line there today. Harry got off him the last day at Aintree and said ‘next time I’m going to make the running’. He got too far behind and all his did was gallop, that’s why we bowled along in front today.
“He likes these small fields and better ground. He doesn’t want soft ground – that’s no good for him. When he ran at Ascot, that was a big waste of time. That was perfect today.
“He will definitely go back to the King George again as he ran so well in it this year, but hopefully, we can know him a bit more and get him a bit better and ride him differently.
“The Charlie Hall, something like that, if it was fast ground, would suit him very well.”
Of Mister Fisher, Henderson said: “It was very uncharacteristic – he would not jib at anything.
“We haven’t seen Saint Calvados making the running for a long time and the one day he’s making the running, we go and give him 15 lengths at the gate. It was very out of character.
“Peterborough Chases are his sort of level. He is a Grade Two horse. There are lots of races for him and the Peterborough and those sort of things are really up his street.
“He has had a busy end to the season and Nico (de Boinville) said he was a bit tired.”