Jester Jet ended a frustrating run of seconds with a hard-fought success in the rearranged olbg.com Mares’ Hurdle at Haydock.
Saved from Warwick’s abandoned meeting last weekend, the Listed contest attracted a small but competitive field.
Tom Lacey’s Jester Jet was sent off at 4-1, having finished second in all her five races this season, and halfway up the straight she looked booked for the same spot again as If You Say Run attempted to make most of the running.
Tom Scudamore timed his run to perfection, though, and she prevailed by a head.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a relief, because she’s lost nothing in defeat most of the time,” said Lacey.
“It’s just easy for the media to say she’s got seconditis – but she’s a pleasure to train, and you couldn’t question her attitude.
“I think she’s just as good over fences, but there was no suitable race, so we’ll just mix and match. She’s in the Coral Cup, so we’ll give that due consideration.”
Quel Destin cemented his claims for the Triumph Hurdle with an all-the-way success in the William Hill Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls’ youngster has been making hay this season, and was sent off the 4-6 favourite to register a fifth success since joining from France.
Sean Bowen set only steady fractions before kicking at the top of the home straight – which sent him clear – but he sprinted away from the last to win by six lengths, and is now around 8-1 for the Cheltenham event.
Nicholls, speaking from Ascot, said: “That is probably one of his best performances, because he has sharpened up. He liked that better ground, and he won despite the ground at Chepstow the other day.
“I’ve left plenty to work on, and he will improve. He just gets better with every run. He is a leading player in the Triumph.
“That is where he will go now, and he won’t run before that. He is tough and keeps galloping, and the one thing at Cheltenham is he will be hard to pass.”
Lisnagar Oscar (6-1) booked his ticket for Cheltenham with a hugely impressive display in the Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle.
Rebecca Curtis had spoken in glowing terms about her six-year-old, but he faced by far his stiffest task to date in a deep Grade Two.
He always travelled strongly for Bowen, notching up a treble after earlier wins on Quel Destin and Robinsfirth, and scooted clear of Ask Ben to win by 10 lengths.
“He seems to be improving with every run. We dropped him in trip last time to sharpen up his jumping, but three miles is his trip,” said Curtis.
“We had to run him because we weren’t certain an official rating of 133 would be good enough to get in the Albert Bartlett if it was over subscribed, but he’ll have no worries now.
“He goes on any ground and I can’t wait until he goes chasing next season.”
The Paddy Pie (5-1) continued his progression in the William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Chase for Sue Smith and Danny Cook.
A winner over an extended two miles last time out, he travelled better over half a mile further.
“The step up in trip brought out more improvement and he’s getting stronger all the time,” said Smith.
“He’s won here now and hopefully he’s one for all the nice races here next season – if the handicapper doesn’t go mad.”
Smith was denied a double when her Silva Eclipse could not pass Sykes (11-1) in the Pertemps Qualifier.
Nicky Martin’s 10-year-old was narrowly beaten at Cheltenham, but that was in October and he had not been seen since.
“He’s such a dude and he’s very good off the back of a break,” said Martin.
“He’d been off for a variety of reasons and we were getting a bit close to Cheltenham really, but this was the last chance of a run.
“He’ll go for the Final, he’d already qualified, this was supposed to be his prep race!”