Master Debonair continued his rise through the ranks with an impressive display in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot.
A field of just four runners went to post for a Grade Two contest registered as the Kennel Gate, with Nicky Richards-trained northern raider Ribble Valley the 5-6 favourite to claim his fifth win from six starts.
Colin Tizzard’s Master Debonair was a 3-1 shot following a course and distance success four weeks ago, and it was between the two leaving the back straight.
Ribble Valley travelled strongly for much of the two-mile journey under title-chasing jockey Brian Hughes, but he was unable to get on terms with Master Debonair and the response was fairly limited once asked for maximum effort.
Robbie Power’s mount, meanwhile, devoured the testing conditions and powered up the run-in to pass the post with eight lengths in hand.
Tizzard said: “He looked to me to be a better horse today than he was last time. He won equally as well and he was hardly blowing.
“He is a beautiful young horse. I don’t think the 3lb penalty he was carrying was going to make a difference – he was either going to be good enough or he wasn’t.
“He had really good bumper form and we were trying to hold him up. Now we drop him out in front he drops the bit and Robbie got a blow into him and he came right away again. It is lovely to see.
“He will have one more run and then go for the Supreme (Novices’ Hurdle). There has been talk about running him in a handicap, but I would love to keep him in novices this season and keep him fresh for Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.”
Paddy Power cut Master Debonair to 16-1 from 33-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, while Coral, Sky Bet and Unibet all offer 20-1.
Richards was not too disappointed with the performance of Ribble Valley.
He said: “He was just far too gassy, but never mind – I would say he will still have his days.
“It’s a learning curve and he has gone up in class and I think he has shown he deserves to be up amongst them.
“There is no disgrace and I’m quite sure he will be back – he will make a smashing chaser, you would hope.
“I think he wants better ground, too. There is no doubt about that.”
Hurdling debutant Time Flies By was third for Nicky Henderson, with the Paul Nicholls-trained McFabulous last of the quartet.
Nicholls said of the latter: “I’m misreading him as I think he wants a trip. I still don’t think we have seen the best of him yet and he is not jumping well enough.
“There is improvement still to come and we haven’t got there yet. As I keep saying, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”