Sanctuaire showed he had become the latest member of the Paul Nicholls team to have benefited from a breathing operation when bouncing back to his best in the Isle of Skye Blended Whisky Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.

The Ditcheat handler has become something of a master at spotting wind problems in his equine stars and plenty have returned better than ever.

Sanctuaire looked destined for big things when running away with the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham little over a year ago, but his career has been on a downward spiral since.

However, with that corrective breathing procedure behind him, the 9-2 chance cruised round the Scottish circuit under Ruby Walsh and easily picked up the front-running Overturn and Bygones Of Brid.

That pair emerged best of the rest, with the latter grabbing second, a length and three-quarters behind the winner.

‘He was struggling with his breathing after the Fred Winter so we drew stumps with him,’ said Nicholls.

‘He had a breathing operation on January 26 and we've packed as much work as we could into him since then.

‘A fast-run race really suits him and what has been a difficult season with him has ended well.

‘We were going to go chasing with him, but we might supplement him for Punchestown now. There is also just a possibility he could go to Sandown next week, but I'd have to have a word with his owners.’

Gilbarry may have failed to land a blow at Aintree a week ago but he made the most of a slight drop in grade and a step up in trip by storming clear in the Scottish Sun Future Champion Novices' Chase.

The 8-1 chance made good headway down the back and powered up the straight under Graham Lee to win in most impressive style.
Sam Lord was handed the runner-up spot by the final-fence fall of Stagecoach Pearl, but was 16 lengths behind the Malcolm Jefferson-trained winner.

‘He's had very little experience because he doesn't like heavy ground and we've kept him until the suitable ground came along,’ said Jefferson.

'The two miles at Aintree last week was too short, in fact I think he'll get three miles, and I suggested to his owners that if he came out of Aintree OK, we'd run here.

‘He may run again this season, but there's not a lot left for him really. There are a couple of intermediate races of Perth that might suit him, although I don't want to go over three miles yet.’

Stagecoach Pearl's jockey Shane Byrne gave up his one remaining ride and left the course with his right shoulder heavily strapped, but it was thought he had suffered only bruising.

Lee went on to complete a double for the day on Ferdy Murphy's Beggars Cap (14-1), who just managed to edge out I'msingingtheblues in the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase.

‘He suffered a leg injury Grand Annual last year, and had a plate inserted into his leg,’ said Murphy.

‘He was with the vets for the three or four weeks, and then went to Mr Hemmings' (Trevor, owner) and came back to me about four months ago.

‘He may run again this season, but I haven't anything in mind at the moment.’

Gordon Elliott and Paul Carberry suffered disappointment with Chicago Grey in the Scottish Grand National but gained some compensation as 2-1 favourite Russian War defied top-weight in the Ayrshire Hospice Handicap Hurdle.

Elliott said: ‘Paul gave him a great ride. The horse was giving away weight all round, so it was a good effort.

‘I don't know whether he'll go to Punchestown, as he's had a lot of races. That could be it for the season.’

Knight Valliant (14-1) supplied Liz and Barbara Butterworth with a family success in the Purvis Marquees Racing Excellence 'Hands And Heels' Finale Handicap Hurdle, while Paul Gallagher guided Howard Johnson's 9-2 shot On His Own to victory in the Weatherbys Bloodstock Insurance Novices' Handicap Chase.

The closing bumper went to the Nicky Henderson-trained Fourth Estate (5-4 favourite) in the hands of Barry Geraghty.