Checkitout set himself up for a tilt at a valuable prize at Ayr when completing a double for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies in the Bromfield Sand And Gravel Handicap Chase at Ludlow.
The rapidly improving seven-year-old coped with a course that was plenty sharp enough in his pilot’s view, pulling seven and a half lengths and one length clear of King Of Realms and El Presente.
It was an impressive performance from the 6-4 favourite, but the race was marred by a fatal injury to Capeland, a multiple winner over fences who broke a hind cannonbone in the early stages.
Sam Twiston-Davies said: “He was unlucky here earlier in the season when he pitched after overjumping and fell. You can see by his size that he’s not an ideal Ludlow horse, and Nige has had a valuable novices’ handicap chase at the Scottish National meeting as a long-term plan for him.
“If he’s in as good form as he was today, he’d go there with a good winning chance.”
The jockey initiated his double aboard 11-2 shot Fontana Ellissi, who upset the odds-on favourite Hurling Magic in the Watch On RacingTV Novices’ Hurdle.
He added: “He’s a very straightforward horse who will jump fences in the future. The ground really suited him.”
Apache Creek continues to reward the patience of his connections, and the six-year-old readily picked off his foes to complete a hat-trick in the Lets Beat This Together Handicap Hurdle.
Jonjo O’Neill Jr bided his time on Apache Creek and after taking control approaching the final flight, stayed on strongly to score by two and a half lengths from Wicked Willy.
The success takes O’Neill to 59 winners for the campaign, just two adrift of his total for the 2019-20 season.
O’Neill said: “Apache Creek has been a bit of a slow burner. He wasn’t easy to train at first, but the patience of the owners has now been rewarded.
“He does knock a few out, but he’s a relatively young horse who likes a strong gallop to aim at.”
Tom George’s horses are running into form on the better ground, and another to put his best hooves forward for the Slad trainer was Rock On Rocco (4-1) in the Join racingtv.com Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Tom Scudamore donned the Roger Brookhouse colours, in which he landed the Arkle on Western Warhorse back in 2014, to steer Rock On Rocco to a two-and-a-quarter-length success over Somekindofstar.
Scudamore said: “Since winning at Kempton, it’s taken a while for him to get his confidence back, but he certainly appreciated the better ground today and warmed to his task as the race developed.
“He was very exact and really good up the home straight. He’s jumped well and travelled very nicely.
“I’ve ridden a lot for Mr Brookhouse over the years and he’s always been a great supporter.”
Scudamore has Triumph Hurdle second Adagio as one of his best rides to look forward to at Aintree and added: “David (Pipe) sees Aintree as the logical route.
“He had a little setback, but has improved each time I’ve sat on him. It’s of great credit to everyone at Pond House that he ran so well in the Triumph and might now go to Aintree.”
Take It Easy wore down Magic Dancer before holding the challenge of Hydroplane by a length and a half in the Visit racing tv.com Handicap Hurdle.
The 11-8 favourite, trained by Pam Sly, enabled Kielan Woods to equal his best previous tally of 30 winners.
The jockey enthused: “He’s a lovely little horse who is still learning about the game.
“It was a messy old race in which I rode him too handy and got there too soon, but he was all right on that ground. He has loads of boot, and was as clever as a cat with his jumping.”
Woods has ridden for Sly since his conditional days and added: “Pam’s been brilliant to me since I was a 7lb claimer. It’s been a great season with 60 more rides than ever before.”
Getaway Luv (2-5 favourite), trained by Olly Murphy, did not have things all his own way in the Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle and had to be punched right out by Aidan Coleman to resist Just The Man by three-quarters of a length.
The closing Ludlow Race Club Open Hunters’ Chase went to Garde Ville (100-30).