The six-year-old, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, gave Tony McCoy his first winner when back in the McManus colours after riding the ill-fated Darlan at Doncaster on Monday.
The 17-times champion had to be at his strongest to get Shutthefrontdoor (9-2) to outpoint Ardkilly Witness by half a length and complete a hat-trick.
Shutthefrontdoor, who has had just the four runs over jumps, has several Cheltenham options, including the Pertemps Final, the Coral Cup and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Christopher Ward, the 7lb claimer aboard runner-up Ardkilly Witness, was banned for two days (20-21 February)for using his whip above the permitted level.
Eduard (1-8 favourite), another Cheltenham possible, had little more than an exercise canter as he trotted up in the Exhibitions At Carlisle Racecourse Novices’ Hurdle.
A creditable third to Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham in December, the Nicky Richards-trained five-year-old had no trouble registering his second win over hurdles.
Once Davy Russell took him to the front after the third-last, Eduard put plenty of daylight between himself and his rivals to coast home by 29 lengths to give Ireland’s champion jockey a facile success. Eduard was given quotes of 40-1 for both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdles at the Festival.
“He’s a lovely horse and I’d say his future is over fences,” Russell said. “He’s a big, honest horse and relaxed from flag-fall – he was very professional the way he went about his job. There will be worse horses than him running at Cheltenham.”
At Ludlow, meanwhile, French import Ptit Zig upset hot-pot New Year’s Eve on his British debut in the Bromfield “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.
The Paul Nicholls-trained four-year-old had too many guns for last year’s Cheltenham Bumper runner-up. Ptit Zig (11-2) pulled away from the 2-7 shot on the run-in under Daryl Jacob to open his account by six lengths.