THOSE who argue that with the retirement of Kauto Star et al Paul Nicholls will struggle to retain his champion trainer crown this season were silenced on Saturday when a Wetherby double sent the Ditcheat maestro soaring back to the top of the table.
The Grade Two victories of Silviniaco Conti (Charlie Hall Chase) and Tidal Bay (John Smith's Hurdle) lifted Nicholls on to 39 winners and pole position with prize-money of £327,570 having started the weekend in fourth spot.
There were even greater rewards on the same day in Northern Ireland where Nicholls, Wincanton-based jockey Daryl Jacob and owner Robin Geffen captured Down Royal's major prizes through six-year-olds Kauto Stone and Cristal Bonus – though overseas winnings do not count in the domestic championship.
It was destiny that Kauto Stone would win the JNWine.com Champion Chase in the week his famous half-brother was retired.
"The name lives on!" said Nicholls after Kauto Stone had matched the achievement of his illustrious relative who had won this Grade One three-miler in 2008 and 2010.
It was an eighth top-grade triumph for Jacob who immediately followed up in the Grade Two Ladbrokes Chase on Cristal Bonus, the fifth year on the bounce that Nicholls has pocketed this race.
Cristal Bonus has the Hennessy Gold Cup on December 1 as his next target. Kauto Stone also has an entry for the Newbury classic.
The Irish double plus the smooth performance of Silviniaco Conti under Ruby Walsh prove that although the stable's senior statesmen have departed, the young guns are ready to step up to the plate.
At 11, Tidal Bay falls into the veterans' category but this rejuvenated character produced a finish worthy of a three-year-old sprinter to leave his former stablemate Crack Away Jack toiling on the run-in.
Tidal Bay – winner of the Bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown Park in April – is known more as a chaser these days and Nicholls has earmarked this one as well for the Hennessy.
Nicholls drew a blank with three runners at Ascot on Saturday but Colin Tizzard and his jockey son Joe found the Berkshire track a happy hunting ground with the progressive Ivor's King who followed up his mid-October victory at Wincanton by running away with the novices' handicap hurdle after making all over an extended two miles and three furlongs.
The Milborne Port trainer said: "Ivor's King tears off in front and you think he can't keep going like that but he does. Joe said he felt so much better than at Wincanton."
Tizzard's Cannington Brook was running a pleasing seasonal comeback in the United House Gold Cup Chase until being brought almost to a standstill by a faller in the closing stages.
He finished sixth but Tizzard was delighted with the mud-loving eight-year-old who could have a crack at the Grade One Betfair Chase on November 24 at Haydock Park if conditions are testing. Cannington Brook won twice there last season on heavy ground.
Tizzard's Golden Chieftain, who has been raised 15lb for his emphatic Worcester win last month, takes his evolving talent to the listed Badger Ales Handicap Chase at Wincanton on Saturday.