Valtor turned what looked a competitive Garrard Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot into a procession, and sparked dreams of the Grand National in the process.
Making his debut for Nicky Henderson, the nine-year-old looked thoroughly exposed from his form in France – but he made a mockery of his opening mark of 148.
The fact that Daryl Jacob chose to ride Alan King’s Full Glass in the same Isaac Souede and Simon Munir ownership saw Valtor sent off a 33-1 chance with James Bowen in the saddle.
While half-a-dozen held a chance half a mile out, by the time Valtor jumped the second-last the race was over – and he crossed the line eight lengths clear of a staying-on Jammin Masters, with Benatar seemingly failing to stay in third.
Henderson said: ““He surprised us a bit obviously, but he is just a nice old professional type of horse.
“When you have been jumping Auteuil as long as he has, for him to come and jump English fences like he has today, that is the rarity of it. He was just perfect all the time.
“The National is the plan, because that is what he was bought for, but we’ve shown our hand. We were on a learning curve today, but he’s won a very valuable prize – which is great.”
Earlier, the same double green colours were carried to victory by Kildisart, and
a return to Grade One company could be on the cards after he opened his account over fences at the second time of asking when denying Activial by a short-head in the Sebastian’s Action Trust Graduation Chase.
Ben Pauling, winning trainer, said of the 5-4 winner: “We were too far down the course to see if he had won. He got in front, got headed again, then battled back.
“Daryl (Jacob) just felt he idled in front, but he got the job done. He jumped well, but there is definitely improvement in the jumping – especially when he got in short.
“We will probably aim quite high, because he will have a stonking penalty. We will have a chat with Anthony Bromley (racing manager), and maybe something like the Scilly Isles is possibly the next target.”
The application of a tongue tie appeared to work the magic on Casko D’Airy as he put his injury troubles behind him when seeing out the extended two-mile-seven trip best of them all for a seven-length victory in the Foundation Developments Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Paul Nicholls said of the 16-1 winner: “We always thought this horse would be all right. We brought him for quite a lot of money a long time ago. Two years on the trot, he has had a leg injury. (Owners) Ged (Mason) and Sir Alex (Ferguson) have been really patient with him.
“He needed his first run badly. Bryony (Frost) said he choked the whole way round at Ffos Las last time, and that’s why we put the tongue tie on.
“He was a massive price, and I said to Sir Alex this morning he would run tidy and to have a bit each-way on him.”
Catching Hell’s Kitchen (5-1) on a going day can be tricky, but the Harry Fry-trained seven-year-old showed he was in the right frame of mind in the My Pension Expert Handicap Chase as he ran out a ready winner of the two-mile-three prize.
“He is very much an enigma. I just said to (ownere) JP (McManus) he either wins or is nowhere. Trying to pick when he is going to win is hard. That is probably his ideal trip,” said Fry.
“I didn’t really get chance to chat to (jockey) Barry (Geraghty), but the horse probably made up his mind what he was going to do. At least he is back in the winning groove.”