Skytastic could be headed for Cheltenham after making an impressive debut over jumps in the Rob Burrow Helping To Fight MND EBF ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle (Qualifier) at Doncaster.
Trainer Sam Thomas wanted to get the unbeaten Dai Walters-owned six-year-old out earlier in the season but a pulled muscle put paid to that.
However, Skytastic (11-8 favourite) wasted no time in showing his potential with a very smooth success, triumphing by three and three-quarter lengths over Godrevy Point in the hands of Charlie Deutsch to add to his two bumper wins.
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles is the more likely objective than the three-mile Albert Bartlett.
Thomas said: “It’s a relief with a horse like that, but he’s very special.
“We had him ready to run at the start of the season, but he pulled a muscle so I’ve literally started from scratch with him. You’ve probably seen him at 90 per cent today. I’m just thrilled to get that out of the way.
“He’s in both races at Cheltenham, but I wouldn’t have thought we’d go down the three-mile route just yet. I’d imagine we’d be looking at the two-and-half-miler.
“We’ve got six weeks. It depends if we want to get another run into him for experience and fitness.”
Walters said: “He’s some horse. He got cast in his box just before he was going to run two or three months ago. He pulled a muscle so I’m glad to get him out in time for Cheltenham.
“We’ll take on those top ones. He’s in the same park. I was impressed with his jumping today and he’ll make a nice chaser.”
Deutsch completed a double when Funambule Sivola defied top weight in the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Handicap Chase.
The 5-4 favourite rallied close home to score by a length after long-time leader Before Midnight regained the initiative briefly on the run-in. The Big Bite stayed on to dead-heat for second place.
Deutsch said: “He jumped brilliantly, apart from the first. I got racing up the straight. He got to the front and I thought I had the other horse beat, then he came back at me.
“I probably got there a bit too soon, but he’s so quick and he jumped well. He’s a great little horse.”
Nocte Volatus (3-1) bounced back from an unfortunate incident on his previous start to win the Betting Better With Sky Bet Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The seven-year-old had run out at the first under conditional Dylan Kitts at Hereford, but the combination enjoyed a better outcome this time to win by eight and a half lengths from Ahead Of The Field.
Trainer Tom Lacey said: “It’s just starting to click with him. He’s been very hard to get to the races. This year he has turned the corner. He did get more worked up here than previously at Catterick and Newcastle, but Dylan is doing a good job.
“Hereford wasn’t Dylan’s fault. He was inexperienced in a big field against professionals. It was just one of those unfortunate things.
“It’s nice to have him back on track. He’s doing nothing wrong at the minute. You have to support the young lads in the yard. He’s a tidy little rider. You have to pick the rides for them and nurse them along.”
Lacey completed an across-the-card double just 10 minutes later when Dibble Decker (8-1) struck at Huntingdon.
Ridgeway (3-1) made a pleasing debut over jumps when winning the Sky Bet Uks No. 1 Betting App Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old, a winner on the Flat for Eve Johnson Houghton, was given a confident ride by Harry Skelton to score by two and a half lengths from the Irish-trained Foxhollow.
The winning jockey said: “It looked on the Flat like he was better on better ground. I took him a bit wider to try to get fresh ground. It wasn’t too bad out there. He handled conditions well and won really well.”
Tommaso (11-2) finished strongly under Tommy Dowson to get up close home in the Sky Bet Extra Places Every Day Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Division One.
The Phil Kirby-trained four-year-old snatched the verdict by half a length from Chess Player with She’s A Rocca a neck third.
Kirby said: “He’s not done an awful lot since we got him. It’s nice for juveniles to take on older horses. He seemed to have a fair enough mark. Hopefully he’ll be a nice horse for the Flat in the summer.”
Division Two went to the Donald McCain-trained Taragrace (10-1), who defeated Mind Hunter by two and a half lengths in the hands of 5lb claimer Theo Gillard.