Peddlers Cross and Jason Maguire
©Healy Racing Photos
Peddlers Cross had to settle for second behind Sam Winner in the BetVictor Non Runner Free Bet Cheltenham 'Jumpers' Bumper' NH Flat Race at Kempton on Friday.
Donald McCain's charge travelled through the race like the best horse under Jason Maguire and looked the likely winner turning for home before finding little in the straight.
Sam Winner was much more convincing under the Ruby Walsh drive and won by two lengths with Peddlers Cross second and Megastar running on for third.
Peddlers Cross was last seen finishing eighth in the Jewson Novices' Chase at last year's Cheltenham Festival and he's due to return to hurdles following a disappointing end to his novice chasing campaign.
Sam Winner, meanwhile, made a pleasing return over hurdles on his last start and is clearly in good health following a year off the track.
McCain said: Jason was happy with everything, he's gone to pick up and took a blow and flattened out a bit which is fine.
"He's relaxing well but he's still showing plenty of boot and what we've got to do now is find out where it's possible to go racing.
"I'll have to have a good talk with the owner, I'd like to try him over further and we'll go wherever we have to."
Nicholls' assistant Dan Skelton said of the winner: "He had an operation on his knee which took a lot of recuperation.
"It's great to see him back and he'll now go straight to Cheltenham for the Pertemps."