Dan Skelton is in no rush to decide whether Cabot Cliffs will be part of his Cheltenham Festival squad next month following a runaway victory in the opening race at Warwick on Friday.
A winner on his hurdling debut at Uttoxeter in the autumn, the Gleneagles gelding subsequently ran with credit in Listed and graded company at Wetherby and Cheltenham, before getting his head in front for a second time at Warwick three weeks ago.
The four-year-old looked to have plenty on his plate on his return to his trainer’s local track for the South West Syndicate Juvenile Hurdle, with Nicky Henderson’s Kempton scorer Heross Du Seuil all the rage to maintain his unbeaten record over jumps as the 4-7 favourite.
However, Cabot Cliffs (15-8) was sent straight to the lead by the trainer’s brother Harry – and while Heross Du Seuil appeared to be in top gear a long way from home, the Skelton runner scooted clear for a commanding 17-length success.
“He’s thriving at the moment. He looks great and loves jumping,” said the Alcester-based trainer.
“He surprised me today with how straightforward it was. I think the form of his last run here at Warwick is pretty good and you can’t be anything but impressed with his progression.
“He’s a credit to himself as he’s really enjoying it and is doing everything he should do, albeit in a slightly crazy way!”
Cabot Cliffs hold an entry in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in less than three weeks’ time, but is not certain to take up the engagement.
Skelton added: “I don’t know if the handicapper will overreact massively, because the second horse obviously hasn’t run up to his form and I’m not sure what the rest is worth at the moment.
“For Craig and Laura (Buckingham, owners), Cheltenham is not their God. They’ll do whatever is right for the horse, so we’ll see how he comes out of it and see what happens.”
Jay Bee Why justified 2-7 favouritism in the British Stallion Studs EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The six-year-old bolted up on his hurdling debut at the track in December, before finishing a close-up fifth in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle last month.
Stepping back down in grade, Alan King’s inmate comfortably pulled seven lengths clear of Hurling Magic.
“It was a nice display. He’s just growing up all the time, and I love the way he settled today and jumped well,” said King.
“He’s a horse we like. We’re just sort of marking time with him at the moment, as he’ll likely be going chasing next year.
“I didn’t put him in for Cheltenham because he wouldn’t have been ready for that this year, but he’ll run again this season.”
The Barbury Castle handler and jockey Tom Cannon doubled up in the concluding bumper, with Moonamacaroona (15-8) lunging late to win by a length-and-a-half – denying Alexandra Romanov and Skelton-trained favourite Get A Tonic in a three-way finish.