Thyme Hill claimed his second Grade Two prize of the season with a doughty success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Third in the Champion Bumper last season behind Envoi Allen and Blue Sari, Philip Hobbs’ charge won the Persian War on his hurdling debut a month ago.
Carrying a penalty for that success, Richard Johnson was content to bide his time in the early stages as Some Day Soon set a sedate pace.
Coming down the hill, Johnson asked his mount to close and jumped up alongside the leader before the turn into the straight.
Champagne Well made good headway from the rear to throw down a challenge, but a safe leap at the last from Thyme Hill allowed the 11-8 favourite to pull clear and win by three lengths. Happygolucky stuck on for third.
Hobbs said: “He is not the biggest in the world, but he is very genuine and tough. He copes with the soft ground and I suppose the obvious race is the Challow Hurdle. I would imagine that’s where he would be going.
“He jumped fantastically well at Chepstow and he was good here in the second half of the race, while he stays very well. There were good horses in behind and he has done it very well.
“I’m sure he would jump a fence, although he is not overly big. Horses like Massini’s Maguire that won this were built to jump a fence, but he didn’t jump them that well, whereas he is very neat and he would probably jump a fence well, but that is a long way down the line.
“If the Cheltenham Festival is on good ground, I would have thought he would need three miles and he will have no problem with that.
“He is not the sort of horse you would want to run every week. I think we go to the Challow, then straight to the Cheltenham Festival, but nothing is set in stone.
“He is not the sort of horse that needs a lot of work either. Giving them all weight of course is a concern, but he proved he is good enough and we are relieved and delighted.”
Allmankind maintained his unbeaten record over timber with a swashbuckling display in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
Decent on the Flat for Michael Bell, he bolted up on his debut over hurdles at Warwick in a lesser event.
Stepped up to Grade Two level, he adopted the same front-running tactics and was soon a long way clear under Harry Skelton.
Given a breather coming down the hill, his rivals closed up, but the well-backed 11-4 shot went on again in the straight and won unchallenged by two and a half lengths from Botox Has.
“I thought those tactics were possible but not probable here,” said Skelton.
“If you think he’s keen you should see him at home, he’s much worse. There was no point running in a Mickey Mouse race and he’s hard on himself at home, so we may as well take him to the races.
“At two they didn’t think he was far off Derby standard, but he just got keener and keener. He’s bull-headed, but to keep going in those conditions you need to be strong.
“He’s shown us what he can do, so we’ll go steady now and treat him with the respect he deserves and we’ll aim to come back here in March.
“I can’t see a reason to run much before then, maybe one race before it. If he hasn’t boiled over today, I can’t see why he would in March.
“I don’t think we will go to Chepstow unless we try to give him something quiet and he doesn’t want to have it. I think we will have one run three weeks before the Festival to get a little bit of the fizz out of him.”