Following on from Bravemansgame and Stage Star, Hermes Allen had to prove he could handle deep ground on this occasion.
On paper at least, this year's renewal looked as strong as any in recent memory - but Hermes Allen - who is co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson - proved in a different league to all of his rivals. Dan Skelton's Vicki Vale tried to stretch the field and turning for home it looked as if she may have slipped them. But a confident Harry Cobden stuck to the inside and as soon as Vicki Vale began to tire, Hermes Allen (11-10 favourite) was quickly left in the lead. You Wear It Well fared best of the remainder with Jamie Snowden's mare plugging on for second, but Cobden did not have to move a muscle on the impressive scorer. He is now as short as 3-1 favourite for the Ballymore at Cheltenham with Coral. Nicholls, winning the race for a fifth time in all - including with Denman in 2006 - was not on course as he was celebrating his landlord Paul Barber's 80th birthday. Speaking from Ditcheat he said: "I'm obviously thrilled with that. "I was worried about the ground and the lads asked me what I wanted to do and I just said we didn't know that he didn't go on it so we had to kick on. As Harry said afterwards good horses go on any ground, he's now won on quick ground and that ground. "He's not slow. He had been slow at home, but he's waking up mentally and physically. He's got it all really, he's got everything you want in a good horse." Hermes Allen cost £350,000 after winning an Irish point in November 2021, but did not make his debut for Nicholls until October at Stratford. "I promise you, the reason we went to Stratford first time out is because he'd shown us absolutely nothing at home," said Nicholls. "I thought it could have been embarrassing, but then he went and bolted in. That's often the way with backward horses. We wanted to run him in the spring after we bought him, but he was so backward I didn't want to embarrass anyone. "I just kept saying we had to wait and now he's maturing. Time never does these good horses any harm. "I suspect we'll go straight to Cheltenham now. There's no real need to run him again, but the only option is the trial race in a month and then you have a nice gap until the Festival or you just go straight there. We'll all have a chat. "I don't want to go to the well too often as he'll have had a hard race on that ground today." Cobden said: "The way he goes through the race, he travels sweetly, so he is easy to ride. He jumps well. He is a very relaxed, rideable horse. "Just going round this bend (in front of the stands), I took back off of him a little bit and then obviously turning in I tried to hug the inside as much as possible, as I don't know if there is any better ground anywhere else around here. He is just a very good horse, isn't he? "He is the sort of mover that would suggest he would want better ground, but good ones will go through anything won't they? "All day, the ground has got worse and worse and worse. We took the right call and we've obviously got a good one on our hands." Also a co-owner is John Hales, who said: "We paid a lot of money for him and when he went to Paul Nicholls, Paul said 'Look, I'm sorry, he isn't showing anything'. "I thought 'Oh my God', having talked Ged (Mason) and Alex into buying him. Then Paul said 'He ain't very big, either, you know, John'. "So the race came at Stratford and Bryony Frost was on him. I said to her 'If it's our day, you can win - and you can get the critics off my back'. So she jumped off him and won, then she said 'Have I won by enough?'. She won all right - by 28 lengths and he hasn't looked back since!"
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