Dan Skelton pencilled in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury as a potential target for Fascino Rustico after a most impressive debut for the ambitious trainer at Bangor.
Formerly in the care of Skelton’s great mentor Paul Nicholls, Fascino Rustico flattered to deceive on a few occasions for the champion trainer and failed to complete on two of his final three starts of last season.
With the A Cut Above ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle appearing a good opportunity for his comeback run, the 9-4 chance jumped fluently in the hands of Ryan Mahon and had far too many gears for his rivals.
Hughesie knuckled down late in the day to try and cut the deficit, but Fascino Rustico passed the post six lengths clear without being extended.
Skelton said: “He was rated 130 going into the race, which put him high up in the reckoning, and I hoped he’d be able to go there and win. A clear round was obviously very important. That will have done him the world of good and I fully expect him to go forward from here.
“I’ve entered him in the Betfair Hurdle, but that is only a possible at this stage. I’ll have a chat with John Hales [owner] and make a plan.”
Donald McCain continued his resurgence as 20-1 shot Lough Derg Walk showed plenty of heart to triumph in the Stella Artois Maiden Hurdle.
The Cholmondeley handler endured a difficult start to the campaign, with his horses under the weather for several weeks, but the string appear to have turned the corner.
After successes at Newcastle and Musselburgh in recent days, the Irish point-to-point graduate added to the McCain tally with a three-and-three-quarter-length victory, proving his disappointing bumper debut at Uttoxeter in late October to have been all wrong.
Denis O’Regan, who steered Tony Martin’s Irish raider Delvin Road to finish fourth, was found guilty of “failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing” by the stewards, who suspended him for ten days (20-29 January).
Saint John Henry came good in the Bet With Corbettsports Handicap Hurdle. A 5-1 shot to bounce back from last month’s Huntingdon tumble, he ended up scoring by a length and a quarter from Heathfield.
Lucinda Russell’s Scottish challenger Final Assault (9-2) ended a string of placed efforts with a wide-margin victory under Derek Fox in the Bet On Your Mobile At Corbettsports Handicap Chase, while 1-2 favourite Final Nudge won a depleted bumper as he liked.