Sceau Royal’s commanding victory in the Unibet Elite Hurdle completed a swift Grade Two double for jockey Daryl Jacob at Wincanton.
Jacob already had a wide-margin win under his belt on the highly-promising four-year-old Ga Law in the “Rising Stars” Novices Chase when he set out little more than half an hour later on Sceau Royal.
On a card which also featured a thrilling success for Kim Bailey’s El Presente in the Listed Badger Beers Silver Trophy Handicap Chase, by a short head from Potterman, Jacob’s two decisive victories were scarcely ever in doubt.
Sceau Royal is trained, like Potterman, by Alan King – who had a memorable afternoon across the codes thanks also to On To Victory’s big-race triumph in the November Handicap on the final day of the Flat turf season at Doncaster.
The Elite winner, sent off the 4-5 favourite after bagging the Welsh Champion Hurdle last time out, hugged the inner and was going well throughout before taking charge in the straight and passing the post seven-and-a-half lengths in front of Teqany – retaining the title he previously claimed in the 2016 edition.
Jacob pointed out that the sound surface, for the time of year, has played to Sceau Royal’s strengths of late.
“He’s had a couple of meetings where the ground has been ideal for him,” the winning jockey told ITV Racing.
“On the soft ground, I just felt he had small wind issues last year – especially when it was very soft – and it was sort of taking its toll.”
Sceau Royal has spent several seasons as a top-level two-mile chaser, and Jacob added: “He’s been up against Altior for the last two or three years, and he’s always only been beaten two or three lengths by him.
“All credit goes to (owners’ adviser Anthony) Bromley and Alan King for picking out the Welsh Champion Hurdle as a handicap as his first start…and really playing these cards right.
“From there on, we were thinking about going for a Shloer (Chase), but we wanted to come back here because we knew the ground would be nice for him here.”
As for the remainder of Sceau Royal’s campaign, Jacob added: “He’s very, very versatile. You saw the way he jumped hurdles there – and when he jumps a fence he’s very, very quick.
“I imagine we might as well have a crack at these sort of races while he has his conditions and doesn’t have a penalty – then come the spring, we’ll see where we are Cheltenham and Aintree-wise.”
Jacob is looking to the future too with Ga Law, after Jamie Snowden’s youngster jumped brilliantly to win for the third time in as many months, romping clear by 22 lengths at 2-1 on his Graded debut and taking his career tally to four wins in five starts.
In a three-runner race, odds-on favourite Grand Sancy finished a tailed-off last, and runner-up Hurricane Harvey could get nowhere near all-the-way winner Ga Law either.
Jacob said: “He’s done it well there today.
“I said after (his previous win at) Exeter I thought he was a horse for the future, and I really think he is.
“I thought some of his jumps there today, for a four-year-old, were out of this world.
“He was very quick, very clever – and even when I’ve let him go down to the last and fiddle it, he’s got right underneath it and he’s come up and over it.
“So I’m very impressed with him.”
El Presente had nowhere near so much in hand, but got the job done under David Bass in a typically competitive renewal of the Badger Beers – with Potterman pushing him all the way to the line and another promising four-year-old Kitty’s Light staying on into third.
Bailey had been concerned beforehand that the 11-1 shot might need the ground even quicker to show his best – but he rallied from off the pace to pip Potterman on the line and land his hat-trick, after Sizing At Midnight had fallen when going well three out.
The Cotswolds trainer said: “I really did (think this race might be beyond him) – and four from home, I most probably thought I was right as well.
“He’s not very big, but he’s very agile and a great little jumper – and he’s had a phenomenal season.
“We thought when we got beat at Market Rasen after his first run, that was probably his limitation. I don’t understand how a horse can improve as much as he has – it’s fantastic.”