Mission complete for O O Seven
O O Seven (9/2) made an impressive start to his chasing career at Cheltenham as Barters Hill was pulled up early on in the race.
0 0 Seven, ridden by Nico de Boinville, on their way to victory in the Steel Plate And Sections Novice' Chase
Ben Pauling's star six-year-old, who lost his long-standing unbeaten record when fourth in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival in March, was sent off the short-priced favourite for the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase under David Bass but was eased down soon after passing the stands on the first circuit in the two and a half mile contest.
With the favourite out of the race, the bold-jumping Its'afreebee was left to lead the reduced field and managed to fight off the challenge of Sizing Tennessee as the race warmed up coming down the hill.
But in behind the pair Nicky Henderson's O O Seven, who also produced some prodigious leaps early on, was seemingly cruising for Nico de Boinville on the heels of the leaders and with another taking jump he hit the front three from the finish.
The result never looked in much doubt from that stage and although O O Seven wandered out to his right towards the stands' side following the final fence, he wasn't stopping in front and drew 10 lengths clear of runner-up Sizing Tennessee.
Rock The Kasbah, carrying a penalty for his chase win at Chestow, was all but tailed off two out but finished with a wet sail up the hill to claim third, albeit a further seven lengths back.
Pauling said of Barters Hill: "He's lame behind and has been taken away for further assessment."
De Boinville said: "Firstly to Ben Pauling and all the team, it's devastating for them and clearly something has gone wrong. I feel for them.
"Today was all about O O Seven. It was a smashing performance from a remarkable horse.
"It was a big ask but he's shown us a lot at home with his schooling."
Henderson said of the winner: "He's a gorgeous-looking horse and this is what we've been waiting for.
"This is where his life really begins. It's a long wait but you have to be patient. He's always been very good since we started schooling him over fences earlier in the year.
"His technique was always very special and he had to be good to come here first time. Hopefully, Barters Hill will be all right. It take a lot of gloss off the race as he was the horse we had to beat and it would be sad if they can't race him for a while.
"It left the race wide open and our fellow was there to grab his opportunity. They went a good gallop and the pace was good. And when Barters Hill wasn't there they kept it up.
"I think they all got a bit tired. It was his first run and he just got a bit lonely. I'm not worried about that. He got three miles when he won at Musselburgh and we brought him back to two and a half for the Neptune.
"I imagine we'll stay at that trip for the time being. He will get three miles at some stage."