Nicky Henderson suffered a couple of notable reversals on Saturday but at least Oscar Whisky was on target in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot.
With Long Run beaten at Haydock and Finian’s Rainbow a flop in the heavy ground in the Amlin 1965 Chase, it was up to Dai Walters’ fine hurdler to do the business.
A faller at the last when right in contention in the race last year, the 8-15 favourite was always in command under Barry Geraghty and cruised eight lengths clear of Raya Star.
“He loved the ground, and that was a very smart performance,” said Henderson.
“We thought we would go to Cheltenham next month, then Ffos Las, possibly Fontwell, miss Cheltenham and go to Aintree but if it came up soft, you’d have to run him in the Champion Hurdle.”
Coral price him up at 14-1 at this stage.
Captain Chris (7-2) became the second of Philip Hobbs’ star names to look right back to their old selves within a week when taking the Amlin 1965 Chase, where Finian’s Rainbow laboured home last of the four.
Swindon jockey Wayne Hutchinson got Balder Succes off the mark for the campaign with a smooth display in the Betfair Commits £40 Million To British Racing Hurdle at Haydock.
The four-year-old was highly regarded by trainer Alan King during his juvenile year but after winning his first three starts in Britain, he failed to complete in either the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham or at Grade One level at Punchestown.
Having made an encouraging return to action when third in Wincanton’s Elite Hurdle, Balder Succes was a 1-2 favourite coming down in class and he produced a smart performance in the hands of Hutchinson.
The tough-as-teak Hollow Tree predictably set out to make all, but Balder Succes ranged up to his quarters still hard on the bridle at the top of the home straight and he pulled clear between the final two flights to score by six lengths.
Wiltshire jockey Felix De Giles saw his 3-1 favourite Universal Soldier beaten by Liam Treadwell’s Quartez De Thaix in the Better Prices on Betfair Mobile Handicap Chase at Haydock.