Silver Streak set up a return to Grade One company by securing back-to-back victories in the Racing TV Hurdle at Kempton.
The Evan Williams-trained seven-year-old made his first start since finishing sixth in the Champion Hurdle a triumphant one – with victory in the same two-mile Listed contest he landed on his return to action 12 months ago.
Although one of the first to come under pressure rounding the home turn, the 9-2 shot responded well to move through and pass long-time leader Diego Du Charmil over the second last before establishing a decisive advantage.
Once in command, Sliver Streak maintained his gallop all the way to the line to defeat odds-on favourite, and the 2018 winner of this race, Verdana Blue by six and a half lengths.
Williams said: “Ground is important to him, and he has run good races here in the past.
“Verdana Blue is a smashing mare and she has done nothing wrong – but under his right conditions, our horse is a smart horse. They haven’t gone quick enough really for us.
“They have quickened from the last down the back into the bend – which caused a bit of scrimmaging. If our horse had a hard-run race it would be a different job again.”
Williams had plenty of praise for winning rider Tom O’Brien, who was deputising while the grey’s regular partner Adam Wedge serves a suspension.
He said: “Adam Wedge is banned, and he would have ridden him. Horse racing is a funny old game – and you get good times and bad times.
“A lot of people have short memories – (but) I like to think I’ve a good one. Tom has been good to me in the past … he deserved the ride today, and he has done a fine job.”
All roads for Silver Streak will lead back to a third shot at the Champion Hurdle, for which he was introduced at 33-1 by Paddy Power.
But a return to the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, in which he finished third last year, could be first.
Williams added: “The Fighting Fifth would have to be on the agenda, because the track would suit as long as it doesn’t get very deep.
“It’s very easy to go for a Grade Two, and that could be the sensible option, but I do think he has a Grade One in him.
“He deserves to win one of the very good races, because I think he has got the talent (to do it).
“He does love fast ground, and I would love to run him in a fast-ground Champion Hurdle.”
A classy race inevitably recorded a quick time on fast ground – but trainer Nicky Henderson felt a stronger gallop would still have suited Verdana Blue much better.
He said: “She does stay very well, as we have seen on the Flat, but it turned into a bit of a sprint.
“She had everything in her favour, but they went no pace at all. She has got a turn of foot – but it is hard to use it, coming off that pace.”