The Worlds End made every yard of the running to win the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby and force connections into a rethink over future plans.
The Tom George-trained eight-year-old had been chasing last season and was supposedly running in this Grade Two to put him spot on for a crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy.
However, given the lack of strength in depth in the staying hurdling division, owner Max McNeil admits he is now very tempted to have a crack at Paisley Park for the rest of the season.
His novice chase campaign began well, winning two of his first three, but it was downhill after that.
Treated for kissing spines in the off-season, he looked rejuvenated under Adrian Heskin, beating the veteran Unowhatimeanharry by five lengths, with the returning Two Taffs running an eyecatching race in third. Ballyandy failed to see out three miles in fourth.
“We had been worried about the ground, as in his younger days he liked it firmer, but we had a feeling today – he did a piece of work recently and went really well,” said McNeill of his 7-2 winner.
“Tom said to me last week at Wincanton he’d never had the horse in better shape, so we were confident and as he’s got older he can handle softer ground.
“He’s had a few issues, he’s been treated for kissing spines and a lot of work has gone into him to get him back to his best.
“Adrian said he thinks we should go down the three-mile hurdle route. We might give Paisley Park a run for his money.”
Lady Buttons repeated her victory of 12 months ago in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle, this time in even more impressive fashion.
Adored at the North Yorkshire yard of Phil Kirby, she was sent off the 2-1 second-favourite and the biggest problem jockey Adam Nicol had was not hitting the front too soon on the strong-travelling nine-year-old, who is even better over fences according to the official handicapper.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ French recruit Zambella attempted to stretch the field down the back, but by the time they turned into the straight the challengers were queuing up.
They included Indefatigable, Vision Du Puy and Lady Buttons, and when Sam Twiston-Davies was unseated from Zambella, Lady Buttons found herself in front and pulled clear to beat Indefatigable by a length and three-quarters.
“She doesn’t like being in front too long, but races fall apart in front of her – not many mares can give her a lead for long enough,” said Kirby.
“She’s very talented. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t favourite, some of these were novices today. I didn’t think she’d come off the bridle, but you start to doubt yourself when she isn’t favourite.
“Well keep it similar to last year, it will probably be Newbury next for the race she won last year, with the two races at Doncaster to follow.”