Ibleo’s fine run of form continued as he was the game victor of the Sky Bet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase at Doncaster.
Placed second twice at the beginning of the season and then a winner at Sandown last time out, the eight-year-old has risen 15lb in the ratings this term already.
Jumping fluently throughout under Charlie Deutsch, the 6-5 favourite locked horns with The Big Bite over the last before pulling away to record a three-and-a-half-length success.
“I always look forward to riding him. He’s a brilliant jumper, he knows his job and he knows where the winning line is,” Deutsch said.
“He’s very straightforward, but fair play to Venetia (Williams, trainer) for keeping him in such good form all season.
“He’s done it very well, he’s really quick over his fences. He goes so fast and lets himself get very close as he approaches them, but he still seems to not lose any ground – he makes up ground when the others are jumping longer and higher.
“He’s got better and better as he’s got more confident.”
Sam Barton shed his maiden tag for Emma Lavelle and Adam Wedge when taking the Sporting Life EBF “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle at odds of 3-1.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding finished second in a similar contest at Hereford in November and went one better this time to come home two and a quarter lengths ahead of 2-1 favourite The Edgar Wallace, with the rest of field a further 18 lengths behind.
“We were really pleased with him,” Lavelle said.
“He’s such a lovely, big horse, but he is just a big baby.
“He was a little green as you saw over the second from last, but he’s a horse that will improve with time and we hope there’s a lot more to come from him.
“The likely next step with him would be to go for the EBF final, but we absolutely hope he’d make a lovely chaser in time.
“He’s a perfect example of the Trevor Hemmings horse – he’s a big, strapping horse who we really like, we’re really pleased with him.”
Oliver Greenall’s Zalvados claimed a first victory over fences when taking the Sky Bet Britain’s Most Popular Online Bookmaker Novices’ Handicap Chase under Paddy Brennan.
The eight-year-old had finished second on four occasions, but ended his winless run with a comfortable seven-length success at a price of 18-1.
“It isn’t easy running on this ground, you need a horse to keep going,” Brennan said of the soft conditions.
“When they start pulling up early in a race it would suggest it’s really hard work, but I like riding him, he’s a challenge.
“There’s no life in the ground and the horses feel it, and feel it early, but it’s great to be racing.”
Lunar Sovereign then provided Brennan with a double when triumphing in the First Race Special On Sky Bet Tomorrow Novices’ Hurdle.
Following up a debut hurdle success at Wetherby in late December, the 9-2 shot crossed the line four and three-quarters lengths ahead of Alastair Ralph’s Jack Sharp, with 11-10 favourite Flinteur Sacre, full brother to Sprinter Sacre, well beaten in 12th.
Trainer Mark Gillard and son Theo then teamed up to take the Play ITV7 Tomorrow Novices’ Handicap Hurdle with the six-year-old Finisher (12-1), before the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Hurdle went the way of Laura Morgan’s J’Ai Froid (5-4 favourite), piloted by Max Kendrick.