Solo thrust himself into the JCB Triumph Hurdle picture after demolishing his rivals on his British debut in the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton.
The four-year-old – who is still an entire – booked his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival as he proved a class above his rivals in the Grade Two prize, on his first start for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
Front rank throughout the two-mile contest, the 6-4 favourite quickly put the race to bed early in the home straight, before crossing the line 13 lengths clear of the previously unbeaten Fujimoto Flyer.
Bookmakers were running for cover about his price for Cheltenham, and Nicholls said: “I’m obviously delighted. He showed us at home he was quite smart, but I wanted to see that sort of performance.
“As I said earlier with Pic D’Orhy, sometimes these French horses come over and you don’t know whether they have acclimatised, but he has.
“He has been a joy to train and does everything nicely. He is dead relaxed and did that impressively. He thrives on every bit of work you give him. The Triumph will suit him nicely.
“At the moment he would head up our juveniles and he is very smart. He will definitely have to run in the Triumph now, so fingers crossed he stays healthy over the next two weeks.”
The last time Nicholls completed the Adonis-Triumph Hurdle double was with Zarkandar back in 2011. However, the Ditcheat handler feels he has more in common with another of his former Grade One winners.
He said: “He is bigger and scopier than Zarkandar, as he was a Flat horse making his debut here, whereas he (Solo) won well at Auteuil the last day. I thought he was decent and he looks a proper horse.
“He strikes me of being in the model of Master Minded, as he is a big, strong horse that will make a lovely chaser one day.”
Talented dual-purpose performer Who Dares Wins added a victory over fences to his name with a battling success in the Betway Pendil Novices Chase.
Last year’s Northumberland Plate hero had finished second on his two previous starts over fences, suffering an odds-on defeat at Plumpton last time out.
However, the eight-year-old left that effort behind when getting the better off Southfield Stone by three-quarters of a length, to take the Grade Two prize at odds of 10-1.
Winning trainer Alan King said: “He is a very good horse. He is a marvellous animal and has taken us everywhere – Ascot, Cheltenham and Liverpool, the Northumberland Plate.
“It just all went horribly wrong at Plumpton the other day. He walked through the ditch, then he nearly got brought down. He is a soft ground horse on the Flat, but I don’t think he wants Plumpton heavy.
“We have waited and there are not many options, so we have had to come here today. Thank goodness they have had a dry couple of days.
“The plan was to probably not get to the front too soon, but when Paul’s horse (Master Tommytucker) fell four out, we nearly got brought down and we had to commit then, but he has battled on well.”
Although Who Dares Wins holds three entries at Cheltenham, King is unsure which direction he will go.
He added: “I want to go home and think about it, but I wouldn’t be afraid of going three miles with him.”
A trip to Aintree could be on the cards for runner-up Southfield Stone, according to Nicholls.
He said: “He has run a solid race today. He made one bad mistake at the ditch. He would have top-weight in the Northern Trust Handicap and he has now had two hard races.
“I’d be more inclined to give him a small confidence booster or go for a Grade One at Aintree.”
Tom Cannon partnered Who Dares Wins and went on to make it a Grade Two double as the Chris Gordon-trained Highway One O Two ran out a clear-cut victor in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
The 4-1 shot was on the front end throughout the two-mile heat and while West Cork tried to challenge over the last two obstacles, Highway One O Two had far too much in reserve, coming home four and three-quarter lengths.
The five-year-old remains unbeaten in three starts over hurdles and while he is not entered at Cheltenham, Gordon could look towards the Imperial Cup in the run-up to the Festival.
He said: “You are always expecting the worse in my situation in life. This is great and an absolute dream. It is great for the old boy (owner Anthony Ward-Thomas).
“I don’t know how much he improved as those first two races at Plumpton he absolutely destroyed them and he has done very much the same today, which is brilliant.
“He does carry me every day this horse, so he is probably used to 14st and probably thought he was loose today.
“What was tricky today is that he had won over a staying two miles at Plumpton and the only way we thought we could deal with it today was to just get on with it. Tom has ridden him beautifully, like he always does. That was great.
“He is in the Imperial Cup, but we will just see how he is tomorrow. The main thing is I’m going to enjoy today.”
Cannon capped his day by making it a treble aboard the King-trained Mystical Clouds (3-1) in the Heed Your Hunch At Betway Handicap Chase, while Boothill (5-1) won the closing Betway Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race for Jonathan Burke and Harry Fry.