Silver Streak will stick to the highest class this season after resuming with an emphatic victory in Kempton’s Matchbook VIP Hurdle.
Trainer Evan Williams admitted, after his Champion Hurdle third had won first time out for the third successive season, that he got it “spectacularly wrong” by campaigning the grey as a mere handicapper for much of his career to date.
On a card which provides another signpost to the start of the core jumping season, Silver Streak was one of two Listed winners – after Jamie Snowden’s Pacify had taken his unbeaten sequence to five in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Novices’ Hurdle.
Adam Wedge was riding the middle leg of a treble as he bided his time on Silver Streak, who produced an authoritative change of gear in the straight to win by eight lengths at 9-4 from outsider Beat The Judge.
Itchy Feet, also placed at the Cheltenham Festival, was sent off favourite but could manage only fourth and last.
Asked what Silver Streak’s next target may be, Williams told Racing TV: “I don’t want to run him in handicaps again really – because I was all anti (last year) that he was a horse to run in these type of races.
“I didn’t give him the chance to be trained like a good horse.
“I thought he was only a handicapper, and I got that spectacularly wrong in the Champion Hurdle – so I thought at least the horse deserves a little bit of credit, and to stick to conditions races.”
As for the likelihood of even better to come, the Glamorgan trainer added: “I don’t know. He’s improved a lot to look at, he’s strengthened up a lot.
“I was scared to predict the same type of thing might happen as last year – (but) he’s done that pretty well.
“Whether the favourite and third favourite have run their races, I don’t know. But I’ll worry about our horse – and on what we saw there, our horse looks to have gone forward from last year.
“He’s just improved physically. I’d like to say it had something to do with us – but it’s not, it’s nature.”
Pacify had earlier delighted both his royal owner and trainer.
Snowden’s seven-year-old has made a notable success of his late introduction to jumping, and was watched for the first time in his new discipline by his part-owner, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Pacify, first leg of a double for trainer and jockey Gavin Sheehan, was never headed on the way to a tenacious length-and-three-quarter victory as 5-4 favourite – from Cardigan Bay, with market rival Longhouse Sale disappointing in sixth.
Snowden may head to Cheltenham next month in search of what would be a remarkable six-timer, in the Grade Two Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.
The Lambourn trainer said: “I’m absolutely delighted.
“Gavin was very complimentary about him. His jumping in his four previous wins was spotless – he’s made a couple of mistakes there, probably going that stride quicker, and he’s still got a bit to learn on that front.
“But he’s progressing at a rate of knots over hurdles, and we’ll see how high we can go.”
That process will start next month, Snowden adding: “There’s that Cheltenham race in November – I’d have thought that looks the obvious route.”
Sheehan and Snowden were at it again as top weight Adrrastos repeated Pacify’s successful front-running tactics to take the Get Switched On With Matchbook Handicap Chase by four lengths at odds of 4-1.
Prefontaine overcame one especially errant mid-race leap to land the opening Matchbook Best Value Exchange Juvenile Hurdle for Jonjo O’Neills senior and junior.
Wearing first-time blinkers, the grey gave jockey O’Neill an anxious moment when he went badly left at the fifth flight – but showed his Flat engine was in working order by regaining the lead and staying on to win by two and a half lengths at 9-2.
Emma Lavelle’s Celtic Joy prevailed at 8-1 in a stirring finish to an eventful Matchbook Betting Podcast Novices’ Handicap Chase – initiating a double for her, completed when Wedge rode his third winner of the day on Vendredi Trois in the Matchbook Casino Handicap Chase.