Nicky Henderson hinted that a return to the highest level could be around the corner for Top Notch, following his first victory of the campaign in the (listed) 32Red Casino Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
After suffering a bad reaction to a flu jab, the popular eight-year-old only made his seasonal return last month when finishing third in the JLT Hurdle at Ascot.
Switched back to fences, Top Notch took a decisive step forward from his comeback as he found plenty to take the Listed prize by five lengths, getting the better of Black Corton by a distance of 5 lengths.
Henderson, speaking after the race revealed: "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."
RaceBets gave Top Notch a 9-1 from 20-1 quote for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Looking to future plans, Henderson said: "We were thinking Ascot Chase, then the Ryanair. That is the obvious road."
Published at 10:05 13/01/19