Champion Bumper fourth Third Time Lucki made a seamless transition to obstacles when landing short odds on his hurdling debut at Uttoxeter, on a good day for Dan and Harry Skelton.
Third Time Lucki came home best of the British at Cheltenham behind the Willie Mullins pair of Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It and Gordon Elliott’s Queens Brook.
Sent off the 1-6 favourite in the first division of the British EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, Third Time Lucki jumped well in the main and only needed to be pushed out after the last by Harry Skelton to beat Ocean Drifter by six and a half lengths.
“It’s always a bit nerve-wracking, especially when they are coming out of bumpers as we’ve seen over the years, you can bring the best horse off the Flat but then not progress over hurdles,” Dan Skelton told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s got the right aptitude for hurdling. Obviously he was a bit keen the whole way, but they always will be first time out.
“The benefit of having a run will be massively important. He’s a lovely horse, we were patient last year and he was the best of British in the bumper. He was always going to go off a short price so it’s good to get it over with.
“He took a blow jumping a last, but what I thought was good was Harry pushed him out to the line to get that fizz out of him.
“I’d have thought we’ll look at the November meeting at Cheltenham, he handled the track in the bumper but it’s obviously different over hurdles. The alternative is to go for a smaller race before stepping up in grade, but I can’t see why we wouldn’t go to Cheltenham.
“With a horse this good, though, the pressure is on not to make mistakes.”
The Skeltons then teamed up to take the second division with Wilde About Oscar (4-9 favourite) in the same Mike And Eileen Newbould silks.
Slightly more surprising was the victory of Cabot Cliffs (6-1) in the Sky Sports Racing On Sky 415 Juvenile Hurdle.
Bought for 18,000 guineas having had four unplaced runs in the Coolmore colours for Charlie Hills, he showed a nice attitude in coming away to win smartly.
Harry Skelton said: “He was a bit fresh early on, but he got better as the race when on. On the slower ground I could sit on him and give him a chance and he came home really well.”
Kerry Lee looks to have a nice prospect on her hands given the way Demachine (8-1) stayed on to win the Visit attheraces.com Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
Lee said: “He’s always been a chaser in the making, ever since I first set eyes on him it was always with a chasing campaign in mind.
“He really enjoyed his chasing debut, that was a really competitive race and I’d have been pleased to have been placed – he’s lovely.
“I’ll have to react to what the handicapper does. At the end of the day that was a 0-135 so we can’t start talking big races yet.”