Tea Clipper denied Flash The Steel back-to-back victories in the Wasdell Group Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow,
Tom Lacey’s five-year-old had shown plenty of promise in his brief career to date, but in landing the £40,000 prize he showed there is a fair bit more to come.
The 7-2 favourite only lost his unbeaten record on his most recent outing in February at Huntingdon and a mark of 134 seems to have underestimated his ability.
Having seen off Sir Psycho, Harry Skelton brought Flash The Steel through stealthily – but Tea Clipper picked up again for Johnny Burke and won by two and a quarter lengths.
“He did what we would have hoped, he’s a nice horse and progressive and kicked on from where he left off last season,” said Burke.
“The race went very smoothly, he travelled well, jumped great and while there was a lot going on with the last flight being bypassed, he went through the line well and took a while to pull up.
“He had a tendency to be sloppy with his jumping last year, but his schooling has been good and overall his jumping was excellent today.
“At that trip he can jump in his comfort zone, and after that today we might have to put chasing on hold and stay over hurdles.”
Lacey said: “We were hopeful, we knew he was in good shape and he’d been working nicely.
“We initially thought we’d go chasing, but we saw this and it looked a good starting point. Now we might have to look for other options.
“He doesn’t need to be overworked at home and he’s filling his frame now.”
The rest of the card was dominated by Paul Nicholls who added another four winners to his four gained on Friday.
French import Hell Red (1-2 favourite) was a hugely impressive winner of the Champion Hats Juvenile Hurdle.
Jockey Harry Cobden told Sky Sports Racing: “I thought he might have been a bit short of work, but Paul has obviously got it all under control.
“He jumped fantastic, and those French horses that come from (Guillaume) Macaire, they know their job. You can drop them in last or make the running and they’ve jumped hundreds of jumps before they get to us.
“I probably wish I’d looked behind and popped the last, but he had loads left and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come from him.”
Secret Investor (11-4 favourite) won the Native River Handicap Chase by seven lengths, while Grand Sancy (5-4) took advantage of the absence of Fiddlerontheroof in the Dunraven Windows Novices’ Chase.
The closing two divisions of the bumper were decimated by non-runners due to the quickening ground, but the Ditcheat handler felt it was safe enough for Knappers Hill (2-5 favourite) who took the first.
He suffered a rare disappointment in the second when Famoso was well beaten by Flying Sara (4-1).