Summerville Boy returned to the scene of his finest hour to win the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Since winning the 2018 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, not much has gone right for Tom George’s charge and he was sent off a 10-1 chance moving back to the smaller obstacles from fences.
However, under new forceful tactics, Summerville Boy showed all his old dash to stake his claim for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival in March.
He looked a sitting duck turning into the straight with Janika, William Henry and Roksana all seemingly travelling better, but Summerville Boy just kept on pulling out more for Jonathan Burke.
Only Roksana was challenging after the last, but Summerville Boy galloped on powerfully up the hill to win by two and a quarter lengths.
The disappointment of the race was Emitom, who was last throughout.
George said: “He had always schooled well over fences, but when things went wrong last time, I thought ‘let’s go back over hurdles’ and this seemed the obvious race.
“We thought he might need a bit further so we thought we would try two and a half today, see how we got on and he answered those questions for us.
“He used to be very wound up as a younger horse, but he is very relaxed now. We put the ear plugs back in, which probably helped him relax a bit more.
“He has always looked like being a proper stayer, as in the Supreme he outstayed them if anything and he has just galloped away today.
“He has jumped well and schooling over fences and running in chases has probably just helped his jumping over hurdles.
“A lot of people have put a lot of work into this horse. He had a lot of problems last year before the Irish Champion Hurdle and he was only beaten six lengths by Buveur D’Air staying on that day, so that’s why we thought there would be no problem him staying.
“Over fences it hasn’t gone right, so we were back to knew what we could do. We won’t be going shorter, put it that away.”
Tom Messenger, assistant to Roksana’s trainer Dan Skelton, was satisfied with the mare’s effort but unsure on future plans.
He said: “It was a really good run and we have been beaten by a horse that has won a Supreme, so he was no mug and he has come here without a penalty.
“We could have probably enjoyed a bit more of test of stamina. We have been beaten by a speed horse.
“What we do in the spring, whether we come here for the mares’ race then go to Aintree for the Grade One (Stayers Hurdle) she was just touched off in last year or whether we go straight to Aintree, I’m not sure. I think she is better in the spring.”