Tritonic cemented his JCB Triumph Hurdle claims with a hugely impressive display in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.
The four-year-old championship at the Festival had looked at the mercy of Gordon Elliott, who has an embarrassment of riches in the division with the first two in the betting in Zanahiyr and Quilixios, as well as the unbeaten Teahupoo, who won again at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
But Tritonic, more than useful on the Flat for Alan King and placed at Royal Ascot, has clearly taken to his new discipline very well.
A winner on his debut at Ascot when he only wore down Gary Moore's Casa Loupi in the closing stages, the pair were first and second again, but this time Tritonic’s superiority was much greater.
Running to the last Tritonic was just a length in front, but by the time the 5-6 favourite crossed the line he had put 10 between them, with Adrian Heskin not being overly vigorous.
King could hardly have been happier with the display.
The Barbury Castle Stables trainer said: "We wanted to get a bit more experience into him for Cheltenham and he will have learned plenty down the inside (rail) today. Once or twice he goes to sleep, but as soon as Adrian gives him a squeeze, he is straight back on the bridle. I could not have been more pleased with him.
"We gave him a proper holiday at the end of last Flat season – he was gelded and had six weeks in the field. He was only just ready to start at Ascot and I just felt we had to try to get two runs into him if we were going to have a serious Triumph horse.
"We were going to come straight here and I thought 'well, that’s not right’, he just needs a little bit more experience. We certainly felt he had improved since Ascot, fitness-wise, and he has built on that again today.
"He is much the best of my former Triumph Hurdle horses on Flat ratings. We have trained him differently. Katchit we started back in September, the rest had a lot more experience than Tritonic has coming into the Triumph.
"But I think the two runs over hurdles will be enough and he has experience in big handicaps on the Flat."
He added: "He is the highest-class Flat horse I’ve ever sent jumping. He is a good mile-and-a-quarter Flat horse. He might appear to be a little bit slow, but that is because he goes to sleep on you in a race. He only just does what he is asked.
"He should be fine for Cheltenham and he has the gears to hold a position wherever you want to ride him.
"Everything impressed me. The way he came back on the bridle. He was a bit short of room once or twice and I love the way he went away from the last as well. He hit the line really well, which is always a good sign.
"From day one he has schooled lovely. I thought today his jumping was accurate and he’s good when he is in tight as well.
"I don’t think he will come on much fitness-wise, but he will just be a little bit sharper for this experience.
"I hope he’d have a very good chance at Cheltenham. He’d be the highest-rated Flat-wise and I certainly wouldn’t be one to swap him for anything. I’m very happy with my lad."
Emmet Mullins will ponder his Cheltenham Festival options for Cape Gentleman (5-2), after he showed plenty of grit in the hands of Jonjo O'Neill Jr to battle back and deny Calico in a thrilling finish to the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old, who landed the Irish Cesarewitch on his last Flat outing before making a winning hurdling debut at Punchestown, blotted his copybook on his second outing in this sphere when pulled up over two and three-quarter miles at Leopardstown earlier this month.
However, dropping back to two miles suited the Champs Elysees gelding, who injected some speed into a modest early pace and went to the front with over half a mile to run.
Calico loomed large before a tardy leap at the penultimate flight briefly halted his momentum. However, he jumped the last better and headed Cape Gentleman on the run to the line, only for O’Neill Jr’s mount to find extra reserves.
His stamina kicked in and the partnership ultimately denied Calico by three-quarters of a length. Lunar Sovereign was a further seven and a half lengths back in third.
?? Cape Gentleman lands the knockout blow— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 27, 2021
Irish Cesarewitch hero Cape Gentleman takes the Grade Two Dovecote Novices' Hurdle, flooring Calico for Emmet Mullins & @JJONeillJnr at @kemptonparkrace in a cracking finish
Results & free replays ? https://t.co/sBcsavHpYf pic.twitter.com/YAld2uiAMI
The winning jockey said: "I thought Harry (Cobden) might just give me a go at the last as Calico has a lot of Flat form, but I didn’t want to be a sitting duck. He has battled hard. He won a Cheltenham trial today and he’d be entitled to go to Cheltenham.
"It was a very good training performance. He has only had the two runs, but he ran poorly the last day, so that’s why he dropped back in trip, which helped him.
"He loved the (good) ground and was very straightforward today. He battled hard after the last and I’m delighted with his performance.
"Emmet said he was in good form at home. I suppose they can have blips every now and again and the considerable drop back in trip definitely helped.
"As for Cheltenham, I’m not sure he is in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he is in the Albert Bartlett and the Ballymore, and it looks like the Ballymore would be an obvious one."
The Close Brothers Pendil Novices' Chase at Kempton has been the Paul Nicholls benefit over the years, having been won by the likes of top-class chasers Frodon and Cyrname.
This renewal was no exception, as Tamaroc Du Mathan (EvensF) gave the master trainer an 11th success in the extended two-and-a-half-mile event.
The six-year-old, who scored at Wincanton on his chasing bow in November before chasing home Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase in December, returned to Kempton to go one better.
The four-runner event may not have been the strongest renewal, but the favourite never looked in any danger once Harry Cobden asked him to quicken off a steady pace from the final turn.
Though jumping overly big at the last two, he showed plenty of zest and was not stopping at the line, having three and three-quarter lengths to spare from Ga Law, with Coole Cody, who helped set the pace, fading into third, a further 12 lengths back.
While he holds an entry in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival, Nicholls is eyeing Aintree, feeling that he lacked a little experience.
?? Lovely turn of foot & some leap at the last too— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 27, 2021
Taramoc Du Mathan chased home Shishkin last time out & makes it 2-3 over fences with success in the Grade Two Pendil Novices' Chase for @CobdenHarry & @PFNicholls at @kemptonparkrace pic.twitter.com/OoOFDpRroA
Nichols said: "I’m very pleased. We were hopeful that was the right for him. It was the first time he’s won over two and a half (miles), but he got the trip nicely, jumps well and it is good ground. Perfect.
"He has plenty of scope and he surprised Harry (at the last). He came out of his hands. He thought he’d probably get in a bit closer, but it shows he had plenty of energy left. That’s why he’s a novice. It was only his third run over fences and he is still learning. He is so full of enthusiasm, but he has just got to get his act together a bit, but it is just one of those things.
"I suspect he will go to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase or at Ayr the week after for the Future Champions Novices’ Chase over two and a half. I don’t see him going to Cheltenham."
Tom George landed the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton for a third time as Clondaw Castle (17-2) relished the step up in trip.
Having his first try over three miles, the nine-year-old was being rewarded for a string of consistent efforts.
Fourth in the Arkle as a novice, he was second in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree earlier in the season.
George had been keen to step him up in trip – but must have wondered if he had done the right thing when Richard Johnson and Mellow Ben set a brisk early gallop that looked sure to find out any rivals with stamina doubts.
With half a mile to run the pace was beginning to falter, but Jamie Moore made sure that was not for long as he took over on Erick Le Rouge.
He led at the second-last but Johnathan Burke had still to ask for everything on Clondaw Castle who ran right through the line, coming away to win well by two lengths.
Last year's winner Mister Malarky was third, with Romain De Senam fourth. George enjoyed earlier successes in the race through the popular Nacarat, who struck twice, in 2009 and 2012.