Dodging Bullets gave weight and a good beating to hot favourite Grandouet in the Williamhill.com Novices' Chase at Kempton on Friday.
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Five runners went to post but it quickly developed into the anticipated match as the front two in the market ran away from the three outsiders well before the turn for home.
Grandouet led for much of the race and attacked his fences well under Barry Geraghty, but Dodging Bullets was always a menacing presence just keeping tabs on the leader.
Daryl Jacob edged closer to Grandouet down the back straight and took over turning for home, easing into the lead as Nicky Henderson's horse failed to go with him.
A good jump at the last sealed the contest and Dodging Bullets was 10 lengths clear of Grandouet at the line, the pair well clear of the also-rans.
Nicholls said: "I've got two really nice novices, and this horse is every bit as good as Hinterland.
"We recauterised his pallet and he has come back a different horse.
"I really fancied him today, and the Arkle will be his main aim.
"I've half an eye on Hinterland going to Doncaster at the end of next month, and this horse could go to Warwick for the Kingmaker, as it gives him a bit more time."
Sky Bet were impressed with the winner and made him an 8/1 chance (from 14s) for the Racing Post Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Spokesman Michael Shinners said: "Dodging Bullets is another Paul Nicholls-trained novice chaser to give Grandouet a beating and he did it more easily than stablemate Hinterland did.
"We now go 8/1 about both Nicholls horses and he looks to have two decent bullets to fire at the Racing Post Arkle."