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Rubaud booked his ticket to face Champion Hurdle winner Constitution Hill at Kempton next month after his fine front-running display in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
The improving five-year-old gained a third success at Grade 2 level with a commanding performance at the Somerset venue this afternoon. Rubaud arrived fresh on the back of a comfortable reappearance victory in a Listed contest at Kempton last month and Nicholls' charge adopted similar tactics this time around after being sent straight to the front by jockey Harry Cobden.
Cobden was able to dictate his own fractions out in front and although it looked as though the pair may have a race on their hands when Hansard travelled up nicely in the leader's slipstream, the Paul Nicholls-trained runner soon put his slick hurdling ability and race fitness to good use, coming away under hands and heels riding to score by a widening four and a quarter lengths. Hansard finished runner-up but he was no match for the 1/2 market leader, who made it four winners on the day for the champion trainer and a treble on the card for rider Harry Cobden.
Nicholls said: "He is just improving rapidly. He goes a gallop, and he jumps, and he quickens. He sprinted away from the back of the last there and you wouldn't know what is in the back of the tank. We like improving horses like that.
"It was a nice race at Kempton Park, and he has improved since then. I loved the way he quickened over the back of the second last after he winged that. I could see Harry was sat in front just waiting.
"The plan is to go to the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day then come back here for the Kingwell after Christmas. When they start improving you don't know where they will end up and the Christmas Hurdle will give us a marker where we are.
"Someone has got to take Constitution Hill on. We will go there and if we finish second, we will be delighted. He will be a lovely two-mile chaser next season. We will just pick our races this season with him."