Taking on the mighty Constitution Hill could now come onto the agenda later in the season for Rubaud who made his return to action a triumphant one when securing a front-running success in the Trustatrader Approved And Reviewed Trades People Hurdle at Kempton Park today.
The improving six-year-old made a winning return to the scene of his Grade Two victory in Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle on his penultimate start last season when successfully giving weight away all round in the Listed feature.
Having signed off last season with a second Grade Two success in the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April the Chris Giles and Brendan McManus-owned five-year-old was sent off the 2-1 second favourite to make a successful return.
Sent straight into the lead by Harry Cobden the gelded son of Air Chief Marshal jumped well out in front dictating matters before attempting to wind the tempo up rounding the home bend for the final time with sitting in behind the trio of First Street, Sceau Royal and Too Friendly.
Despite being one of the first off the bridle Rubaud continued to find plenty for pressure with both Sceau Royal and First Street appearing held between the final two flights leaving Too Friendly as the final challenger.
Meeting the last on a good stride Rubaud pulled out plenty up the run in to hold Too Friendly at bay by two and a three-quarter lengths and set up a return to Grade Two company in the West Country Weekend Elite Hurdle at Wincanton on November 11th.
Nicholls said: “I thought he would improve (for the run), but to compete at this sort of level he had to improve as at the weights he had a tough old task from last year but he has gone and done that.
“I thought beforehand he looked big enough for his first run of the season so he will improve. He will now go to Wincanton in three weeks’ time. That was always the plan to come here then go to Wincanton as it suits him to go right-handed.
“He was (one of the first off the bridle), but if you look at the Scottish Champion Hurdle he was just the same. He stays on strong and goes a good gallop and he will improve for the run. I’m thrilled with him.”
Looking beyond his next start Nicholls hinted that Rubaud could return to the Sunbury course on Boxing Day for a tilt at the Grade One Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle where he would likely meet reigning Champion Hurdle hero Constitution Hill ahead of switching him to fences next season.
Nicholls added: “We will probably run him in the Christmas Hurdle (after Wincanton) as someone has got to finish second to Nicky’s horse (Constitution Hill), and it is good prize money.
“We will stay hurdling and go chasing next autumn as he is only five. He is a good level hurdler and we can choose our races with him and then go chasing next autumn.
“We did (think about going chasing this season), but I thought he would improve hurdling and we lacked a horse of his calibre to run in those good races at Wincanton.
“The two Grade Two races, the one in a few weeks, and the one in February (Kingwell Hurdle) will suit him quite well.
“He doesn’t want a bog, but this track suits him and Wincanton suits him as even when it goes soft it is never too demanding.
“I’d still think we will keep him at two miles over fences as he is a good and brave jumper. To win that race around here you don’t want to be slow.
“He is what I call a staying two miler which is what you want to go chasing. This was a nice target today on route to Wincanton.”