Doctor Parnassus swept into the Triumph Hurdle reckoning with a decisive 10-length success in the SBK Betting Podcast Juvenile Hurdle at Ascot.
Dan Skelton’s debutant appears to be a serious contender for the Cheltenham Festival in March, judged on the way he powered away from his three rivals.
The 3-1 chance travelled well throughout and despite hanging in behind Restitution (6-1) at the penultimate flight, Harry Skelton always had plenty in the locker and he drew clear approaching the last and skipped away.
Coral cut the four-year-old to 25-1 (from 50-1) for the Triumph Hurdle and it sparked a double on the card for the Skeltons, who later made it a treble when Mollys Ollys Wishes took the SBK Mares’ Hurdle.
“He’s like a rocket, isn’t he?” said the trainer. “I felt like he was an above-average juvenile on home work, but you have got to see it.
“The depth of the race is probably not spectacular, but you can only do what you can do and he was good. He jumped in behind the other one jumping the second-last, where he was a bit green, but I liked that Harry got him in front for the last so that he has done that once before and he powered to the line.
“He is quite a trainable, robust juvenile and that stands a lot of these juveniles apart. The ones that you can train harder, you can get fitter. Not all those three- and four-year-olds can you really get stuck into. But with him, you can.
“We will definitely give him another race before the Triumph Hurdle. I don’t know whether to go small-fry or leave him to the Adonis. I will wait and see what the opposition does. Obviously it doesn’t look like the deepest betting heat for a Triumph at the moment.
“When I worked for Paul (Nicholls), there were a number of occasions where the Triumph Hurdler didn’t run until February. You can start well after Christmas and still be a contender.”
Unexpected Party (3-1 favourite) had spoilt his chance with a tardy last-flight leap at Wetherby last time, but made no such mistake for the Skeltons in the SBK Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle.
The seven-year-old grey was in command approaching the last and had a cosy four and a half lengths to spare over Fils D’oudairies at the line.
Skelton said: “Wetherby was one of those things. Harry didn’t know the other horse was there and took it safe going to the last.
“He is a horse who travels very well through his race. I was keen to drop him back to two miles, but Harry said, ‘do not do that’, so we didn’t and he has got progressive.
“He will get all the entries for the handicaps, but I should imagine the Coral Cup will be highest on the agenda. I will get my wish one day and run him over two miles, but I should imagine that will be over fences.
“I think we will end up entering in the Ballymore, but I think that is a step too far to be realistic. We will probably go for the Coral Cup or the conditionals’ race. That is more realistic. He has now won two and has given himself the opportunity to have a pop at something like that.”
Cat Tiger (9-2) brought up Paul Nicholls’ 100th winner of the season in landing the three-mile SBK Handicap Chase in the hands of amateur David Maxwell.
In a battle royal with Cobolobo after the last fence, the eight-year-old got back up after being headed for a nose success and made up for a narrow defeat at Doncaster last time.
Maxwell said: “At Doncaster, I thought I was kicking for home three out and I looked up and saw three fences.
“I nearly thought I had hit the front too soon here. Horse like him are easy to ride.
“He jumps brilliantly, so you never miss a fence and he has got a bit of a turn of foot to finish it off. He is such a game, gutsy little horse – he really deserved that. I didn’t think I’d won. I thought I had won it a stride before, but the line just wasn’t coming quite quickly enough.
“I was glad he got the verdict. Even in defeat, he would have run a magnificent race.”
He quipped: “Apparently, it is Paul’s 100th winner of the season and I was saying to Harry Cobden he couldn’t do it – he had to leave it to the amateurs to do it!”