Ribble Valley booked his ticket for the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle with a smooth success on his comeback at Carlisle.
Nicky Richards has never disguised his admiration for the seven-year-old and reappearing having had a wind operation since meeting with his sole defeat over hurdles, he oozed class.
While only four went to post in the Watch Irish Racing On racingtv.com Intermediate Hurdle, the seven-year-old was giving 6lb to Olly Murphy’s highly-regarded Nickolson but he had no answer as champion jockey Brian Hughes breezed by on the 8-15 favourite.
On jumping the last Hughes just asked Ribble Valley to lengthen and he won by five and a half lengths, setting up a trip to Newcastle on November 28.
“That was lovely, he’ll come on a lot for that and Brian said it couldn’t have been nicer,” said Richards.
“He’s been very heavy and took a bit of getting fit, so Brian just asked him to lengthen after the last, he thought he’d give him a blow, there was no point sitting up on him.
“That was only his fourth run over hurdles so he’s very inexperienced. At the start of the season we thought, bearing in mind the level we hope he’s going to get to, he didn’t have enough experience to go chasing.
“So we were thinking of today and if it went well, which it has, he’ll probably go for the Fighting Fifth to get some more experience. Then we’ll take it from there, see how that goes and take it race by race.
“Brian said it was chopped up on the inside today so he kept him wide. Brian thinks some real good to soft ground and a proper gallop would be ideal.
“I just hope it’s not heavy ground come Newcastle as that might spoil the party.”
Earlier Dan Skelton’s Protektorat (5-4 favourite) put up a smart round of jumping to win the Introducing Racing TV Beginners’ Chase.