Dan Skelton continued his rapid start to the season when Flash The Steel ran out a ready winner of the Cotswold Stone Supplies Ltd Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow.
Sent off a relatively unconsidered 16-1 chance, he travelled supremely well through the race in the hands of the trainer’s brother, Harry.
Produced to lead between the last two flights, he survived a mistake at the last to beat Champagne Court by two lengths, with Imperial Aura in third.
“We’ve always been waiting to step him up in trip. He ran well at Sandown last year when the ground was a bit quick for him,” Dan Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.
“We were planning to run another in this, but when it rained we switched to this lad.
“He’s done everything right and is a nice horse. Our better horses are coming out now and it’s important to get one or two on the board.”
Colin Tizzard’s Reserve Tank, a dual Grade One-winning novice hurdler last season, was arguably the star on the card – but he was turned over on his debut over fences in the Low Cost Vans Novices’ Chase.
Only two took him on, and he was sent off the 4-5 favourite with all going to plan when he put in a huge leap three out which drew gasps from the crowd.
However, he got in tight to the last and Paddy Brennan, on Fergal O’Brien’s Jarveys Plate (11-2), pounced to win going away by four and a half lengths.
“I wasn’t that happy going down the back but that is why we love the game. Maybe the Tizzard horse will get his revenge next time, who knows, but we’ll enjoy today,” said Brennan.
O’Brien said: “He’s a lovely horse, my brother David and my daughter Fern ride him at home and there won’t be eight stone between them but Jarveys just does the same thing – he’s a proper horse.
“He’s so straightforward and so easy to train, we’re very lucky to have him.”
Ballyoptic defied top-weight in the Native River Handicap Chase for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.
Challengers queued up in the straight, with Lil Rockerfeller the last of them, but Ballyoptic (9-2) pulled away again to win by nine lengths.
“That’s 100 winners at Chepstow and I even rode my first ever winner here, too – Emperor’s Gift for Richard Head,” said Nigel Twiston-Davies.
“He’s a lovely horse and he absolutely deserved this.”
Sam Twiston-Davies added: “Fair play to Nige, to get him fit enough to make all around here takes some doing.
“He is a good horse, but jumping is the biggest thing with him and he got into a lovely rhythm today.
The Bay Birch is set for a step up in grade after winning a classy John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase for Matt Sheppard and Sean Bowen at 20-1.
“She’s the best horse I’ve ever had. I thought that at the start of last year, she ended up rated 145 and she’ll be going up again after that,” said Sheppard.
“There’s some lovely mares races this side of Christmas and we’ll be looking at those now.”