Fakir D’Oudairies moved to the head of ante-posts lists for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after dominating his rivals in the opening race at Prestbury Park on Saturday.
Having made a winning debut for Joseph O’Brien at Cork three weeks ago, the French recruit was a well-supported 4-1 chance as he stepped up to Grade Two level in a Triumph Hurdle trial in the hands of JJ Slevin.
The son of Kapgarde hassled 5-4 favourite Adjali up front for much of the two-mile-one-furlong journey before easing his way into the lead racing down the hill.
It was clear rounding the home turn that he had his rivals on the stretch and he safely negotiated the final flight to seal a most impressive 13-length victory.
The winner’s stable companion Fine Brunello stuck to his task well to beat Adjali to the runner-up spot and provide O’Brien with a one-two.
Slevin said: “That was great and he had a good win in Cork the last day. He has obviously come on for that and he had loads of experience in France.
“They didn’t hang around. They went a nice, even gallop he travelled very comfortably and jumped well. I didn’t realise I had won that far, but he did it well.
“I’d say he is probably better with a bit of juice in the ground, but it is a long way from being winter ground out there today and he handled it fine.
“Back here in the spring time, I’m sure the ground will be plenty safe enough for him.”
Fakir D’Oudairies was cut to as short as 4-1 for a repeat victory in March, making him the clear favourite ahead of another O’Brien inmate in Sir Erec at around 8-1.
Nick Williams breathed a sigh of relief after Siruh Du Lac (6-1) rallied valiantly to claim the biggest success of his career in the Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Trophy Handicap Chase.
After being headed up the run-in by eventual runner-up and favourite, Janika, the six-year-old got back up in the closing strides to land the Grade Three prize by a head and complete a hat-trick of wins this season.
Williams said: “Two and a half miles is perfect for this horse. I didn’t think he was going to get back up as he has never been headed. That was a tough race.
“We have been going to lesser races at lesser tracks, but we thought he was ready to take on an open handicap.
“He is hugely impressive jumping and he always has been. That was a big race to win. He will only take one more run and the Brown Advisory Merriebelle Stable Plate is a possibility as is the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.”
Kildisart (9-2) booked his ticket to the Festival after supplementing his recent Ascot win in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Trainer Ben Pauling said: “He is becoming quite a decent little horse. His jumping can still be improved as he gets in a little close to a couple of them, but he doesn’t seem to lose an enormous amount of momentum. He won it very nicely and is a progressive horse.
“Hopefully he will still be within the parameters of the Close Brothers (Novices’ Handicap Chase), but we might have to look at the JLT if he is put up more than 4lb.”
Nicky Henderson’s Birchdale extended his unbeaten record with victory in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
The JP McManus-owned point-to-point and Warwick maiden hurdle winner was a 2-1 shot stepping up to Grade Two level and moved smoothly into contention under Barry Geraghty.
With the race very much in the balance, there was little to choose between Birchdale and and 6-4 favourite Brewin’upastorm when the latter crashed out at the final flight, leaving Henderson’s charge clear to score by 18 lengths from Buster Valentine and give Geraghty his 1,875th winner, making him the fourth most successful jump jockey in Britain and Ireland.
Considering plans for his strong team of novice hurdlers, Henderson said: “They’ll all be in all the novice hurdles, which close next week. We’ve just got to sort out where they go. I’m not sure this horse wants three miles yet.
“His Warwick form does look good, but Barry said the main thing about today was he was very green.
“You never like seeing another horse fall like that and it was going to be a good race. I’m sure both jockeys will say they would have won.
“I do like this horse a lot, but he’s only had two hurdle races in his life and he would have learnt a lot today.”
Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan combined to land the concluding Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle with 8-1 shot Benny’s Bridge.