Melodic Rendezvous outpointed Puffin Billy in emphatic fashion as they built up for the Cheltenham Festival in the Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices' Hurdle at Exeter.
The two smart youngsters cleared away from their three opponents soon after halfway in the heavy ground and it was Puffin Billy, sent off the 4-5 favourite, who was first to look uncomfortable as Leighton Aspell began to get lower in the saddle.
Nick Scholfield, tracking him on Melodic Rendezvous (5-4), sat motionless aboard the Tolworth Hurdle winner until hitting the front after the final flight, after which Jeremy Scott's stable star surged nine lengths clear. Puffin Billy was later reported to be lame.
Scholfield said: "It's very deep ground. Puffin Billy is only five, we're seven and maybe a bit stronger and we've probably handled the ground better.
"We had a plan that we might just beat Puffin Billy for speed, we thought he was more of a stayer than ours. We were looking at the two-mile (Supreme) for Cheltenham, but on this showing, we've outstayed him and we are scratching our heads a bit.
"We were leaning towards the Supreme, but we'll have to wait and see what the ground is nearer the time. If it's good ground, we could look at the Neptune, but if it's soft he might go for the Supreme," he told Racing UK.
Some time afterwards, Puffin Billy was reported lame, trainer Oliver Sherwood's wife Tarnya tweeting: "Leighton was unhappy with Puffin Billy during the race today and he has been pronounced lame by vets."
Kim Bailey's highly-regarded Harry Topper took another step forward in the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Graduation Chase. Compared favourably by the trainer to his Gold Cup star Master Oats, the 5-4 favourite is now unbeaten in three starts over fences.
Jason Maguire spent much of the time at the rear of the small field, but asked Harry Topper to get closer to the action in the final half-mile, and after a little persuasion, the gelding seemed to be lobbing along again at the second-last. He was driven away in the closing stages to beat Hawkes Point be 12 lengths.
Bailey said: "It was a good performance. It's horrible ground. He's a baby, a frame of a horse, but he has a huge engine." Asked if the National Hunt Chase was the plan, he added: "Not necessarily. Cheltenham must be better ground than it has been, and I don't really want to put a gun to his head."
21 October 2014Panther given Breeders' go-ahead
Plain sailing for perfect Storm
Big Easy sets sail for Open fixture
Hall monitored for Giant Bolster
Stomachion in November frame
Hughes revels in 'sweet' success
Storm breezes to Exeter victory
BHA moves to address small fields
Moore concedes title to Hughes
Connell turns to Heskin
Integral to race on next year
Meade maps out gameplan for stars
Pele poised to tackle Hennessy
O'Neill sure of Taquin redemption
Heron seeking Great prize
Court to go on Trial
Saviour blow for Skelton
Dan makes chase debut
Moore waits on Grugy decision
O'Neill outlines That choices
Conn possible for Auction bid
Power team weigh up options
Bangor cancel schooling card
No rushing back for Long Run
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Grands Crus retired
Exciting Berlais heads to Chepstow
Force handed Hong Kong mission
Park favourite for Trophy hunt
Al Kazeem team eye Hong Kong trip
Commemorative bound for Breeders'
Slade eyeing victorious swansong
20 October 2014Chelmsford City handed 58 fixtures
Alderwood to take two-mile test
Dynaste leads Old Roan contenders
Hennessy aim for Clouds
Fiesolana on Breeders' trail
High-class possibilities for Trophy
Chelmsford City handed 57 fixtures
French option for Maarek
Billy back for chasing bow
Judge to bid for Breeders' glory
Pipe mulls Moon target
High hopes for Holywell
Judge in Breeders' frame
Hill stars for Stoute and Moore
Gabriel lifts Garnet for Deegan
New One back with a win
Light career hangs in balance
Stars shines on hurdling debut
King big guns ready to start
Tullius camp consider options
Doyle unlikely to appeal Ascot ban
Mullins prepares formidable team
19 October 2014New One breezes to victory
Lavelle has Becher plan for Lodge
Riches heading on road north
Down Royal plan for Tiger
New makes Kempton return
Panther hunting Canadian prize
Sun takes a shine to Cork
Hobbs upholds Showcase record
Another gold strike for Bronze
Gallant Noble a true Champion
Head turns on Charm in QEII
Madame is Ascot leading lady
Forgotten rules for Weld
Byron is poetry in motion
18 October 2014Forgotten rules for Weld
War misses Breeders' date
Rakti reaps Caulfield reward
Chatez bids for Balmoral crown
Lavelle duo top Cheltenham card
Integral takes on the boys
Noble on Champion mission
Belardo a Dewhurst sparkler
Together stands firm for Ballydoyle
Ivawood felled by plucky Thought
Crowley doubles up on Berkshire
Tendon injury sidelines Tent