Harry Fry's first season as a trainer in his own right took a major step forward as Opening Batsman stole the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton from under the nose of the young handler's mentor Paul Nicholls.
Although responsible for last season's Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby, whom he prepared from what was Nicholls' satellite yard in Seaborough, the 26-year-old's name is now above the same Dorset premises and this Grade Three event was by some way his biggest success so far.
Still a novice but an evident improver, Opening Batsman (12-1) hugged the inside rail under Noel Fehily and finished the three miles that little more strongly than Nicholls' Rolling Aces, who was there with every chance but was beaten by two lengths.
He was roared back by owners the Twelfth Man Partnership, which includes cricketer Andrew Brassington.
"What a day," said Fry, who is the youngest jumps trainer in the country. "I thought Noel gave him an amazing ride and he didn't give away an inch from the inside. The ground and the track suited him perfectly and I'm so delighted.
"Big winners on a Saturday is what it's all about and for a young team, it shows what we can do in the future. He has multiple entries at Cheltenham, but this was the plan and we will enjoy today."
Fry went on: "I wouldn't be where I am without four fantastic years with Paul. He'll be disappointed to be beaten, as we're all competitive, but he was the first to congratulate me."
Nicholls himself said of Rolling Aces: "He's done everything right, but he maybe ran with the choke out a bit and it's cost him at the end. We will maybe look for a novice chase for him at Aintree."
Among the footnotes was the performance of the dashing grey Nacarat, twice a winner and twice more placed in the race. He made a howling error on the first circuit, eventually finishing last, and trainer Tom George announced his immediate retirement.
George said: "That's near enough the first mistake he has ever made and it's his way of telling us he's had enough."
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