Pym made the most of a return to calmer waters with a front-running success in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown.
Having failed to complete his final two starts last season in the Reynoldstown at Ascot and the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Patricia Pugh-owned seven-year-old returned to winning ways with victory in the Listed prize.
Taking a while to warm to the task, the 9-4 chance soon got into a good rhythm on the second circuit of the three-mile prize before finding plenty to score by two and a half lengths from Grade One-winning hurdler and 2-5 favourite If The Cap Fits.
Winning trainer Nicky Henderson said: “He started his season really well (last year), then things got tougher. He doesn’t want very soft ground and I was forced to go into those Graded races last season and I will again now.
“He has schooled at home, but he was just a bit rusty on the first circuit. He was just dossing in front as he wasn’t going to get any help from anyone else, that was plainly obvious.
“The second circuit he was great. He jumped well and he used his experience.
“It would have probably been on Champ’s agenda, but he has had his wind done, so I thought we would stick him in here – although he is not another Champ, if you know what I mean, but he has come and picked up the pieces. It was a good start to the season.”
Assessing future targets Henderson, who claimed the race 12 months ago with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini, is unsure what route he will now take.
He said: “It is very difficult to know where to go with him. He gets three miles which is the good thing and he likes that ground. We will have to tickle our way through.
“There are races like the Peterborough Chase, but he really wants three miles. He likes small fields and it is nice having them for a horse like that.”
Pym formed the opening leg of a treble for Nico de Boinville and Henderson, who was quick to praise stable lad Lewis Morgan following the five-length last-to-first victory secured by Mister Coffey (2-1) in the Kingston Handicap Hurdle.
Henderson said: “We thought we would let him pop out at Huntingdon (in January), but it was like he was on fire and that is why we had to change the tactics.
“Lewis Morgan, who rides him every day, has done a lot of work with him and he has done a great job.
“He will have to go for something better now, but I’m sure the handicapper will have his say as he always does.”
No Ordinary Joe (11-10) looked an above-average recruit when completing Henderson and De Boinville’s haul with a decisive three-and-a-half-length verdict in the Teddington Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Henderson said: “He was in at Newbury on Thursday, but the ground dried up and as you can see, he is a big, heavy-topped horse. He was very smart there and went right away from them. I will speak to JP to see if they want to go over hurdles or give him another bumper.”
Step Back (4-1) made a triumphant return to the scene of his 2018 bet365 Gold Cup success when following up his recent victory at Wincanton by three-quarters of a length in the Sandown Park Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
Sara Bradstock, wife and assistant trainer to Mark, said: “He has had lots of problems so we have had to nurse him back to full health, but he is just a sweet little star that really wants to win. The win at Wincanton really did give him confidence. All roads will lead back here to the final now.”
Tom Lacey is excited about what the future holds for Adrimel (6-5), who struck gold on his first start since finishing down the field in the Champion Bumper in the Esher Maiden Hurdle.
Lacey said: “He was entitled to be a bit green as he has not been out in public for a while, but I was delighted with that. The dream is to have a go at the Tolworth back here in January. To have a horse like him in the yard is incredibly special and we are very lucky to have him.”
A quick call to former jockey Leighton Aspell in Australia helped Brendan Powell get his tactics spot on aboard the Oliver Sherwood-trained Sevarano (2-1), who claimed the Guildford Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase by a neck.
Sherwood said: “It was an absolute joy to watch and I’m chuffed to bits. I’ve not seen a novice jump like that round Sandown for a long time.
“Fair play to Brendan as he spoke to Leighton, who is out in Australia with Joseph O’Brien’s horses at the moment, and he gave him the low down how to ride him. He gave him a textbook ride.”