Countrywide Flame captured the scalp of Cinders And Ashes in impressive fashion to land the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.
The two Cheltenham Festival winners had the race to themselves over the last two flights, and it was the Triumph Hurdle hero who came out on top.
Denis O'Regan always looked confident on the John Quinn-trained 11-4 chance, and he pulled 12 lengths clear of 10-11 favourite Cinders And Ashes to stake an early claim for the Champion Hurdle.
Quinn said: "This year he has improved a stone on the Flat and he had to improve a stone over hurdles to be a real Champion Hurdle horse. Looking at that you'd say he has improved.
"It was great. I enjoyed it immensely, especially when he jumped the last. There's the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and I've also put him in the Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29. That's a possibility.
"Then he'll have another run, then he'll go for the Champion Hurdle. He's gone on every ground and he's looked a good horse on every ground.
"Every trainer needs a good horse and I'm glad for the yard."
Cinders And Ashes' trainer Donald McCain felt the going was the reason for his horse's defeat.
He said: "He was beaten by the ground going past here (winning post) for the first time. What could we do? We couldn't just keep him in his box. If we are looking for the ground then I'll think we'll have to go to Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle. It would be the obvious choice."
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