Ifandbutwhynot benefited from a superbly judged ride from Timmy Murphy to make every yard of the running in Newbury’s bet365 Intermediate Hurdle.
Trained at Nawton by David O’Meara, the seven-year-old is usually waited with, as was the case when he made late progress to finish 10th in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham almost a fortnight ago, but there was a complete change of tactics on this occasion.
Murphy was happy to let the 8-1 shot bowl along at the head of affairs and he remained full of running as he straightened up for home in the race better known as the Gerry Feilden.
Joint-favourites Puffin Billy and Chatterbox loomed up as big threats, but Puffin Billy’s challenge was short lived and he dropped away quickly.
Chatterbox looked likely to give Ifandbutwhynot a serious challenge, but the latter showed smart acceleration between the final two flights to seal the deal.
He skipped over the final obstacle and passed the post four and a half lengths clear, with Chatterbox holding onto the runner-up spot by a short head from Chris Pea Green.
On the same card, Just A Par opened his account over fences with an ultimately facile success in the RSA Worcester Novices’ Chase.
Runner-up behind At Fishers Cross in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in the Spring, the Paul Nicholls-trained Just A Par was beaten into second by Shotgun Paddy when odds-on for his chasing debut at Chepstow in late October.
Sent off the 5-4 favourite to go one place better in this Grade Two contest, the six-year-old disputed the running from the start under Daryl Jacob.
Third Intention emerged as a serious threat between the final two fences but was eventually shaken off, with the market leader coming home 14 lengths clear, as Nicholls continued his domination of this event.
Nicholls and Jacob swiftly completed doubles as Easter Day produced a spring-heeled display in the bet365 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
The 5-4 favourite tracked the front-running Sergeant Dick for much of the two-and-three-quarter-mile journey before being shaken up to challenge for the lead at the first fence in the straight.
Easter Day made his only mistake of the race when pecking on landing at the third fence from the finish, giving Sergeant Dick another bite of the cherry, but the market leader pulled clear from the final obstacle to register a six-length verdict.
Sergeant Dick eventually had to settle for third after being caught by Whats Happening.
The three-day fixture in Berkshire is gearing up to a climax today, and 21 chasers have been declared for the feature Hennessy Gold Cup, with the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Cape Tribulation sitting at the head of the weights on 11st 12lb.
Further Yorkshire interest comes in the shape of recent Carlisle winner Cloudy Too, who represents Grand National-winning handler Sue Smith and will be partnered in the big race by Richard Johnson.
Johnson will also be back on board Reve De Sivola in the chief supporting race, the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle.
James Reveley partnered the Nick Williams-trained eight-year-old to a remarkable last-gasp victory in a valuable race at Auteuil four weeks ago but he has several mounts on Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle card.
Johnson would be a more-than-able substitute, having been in the plate three times last season, including when successful in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Reve De Sivola was a creditable runner-up under Daryl Jacob in this race 12 months ago behind Big Buck’s after a year on the sidelines.
John Quinn bids for back-to-back victories in the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle with the progressive Cockney Sparrow.
Quinn was triumphant 12 months ago with Countrywide Flame, and this time relies upon his four-year-old filly who picked up a Listed prize against her own sex on Charlie Hall day at Wetherby.
The biggest stumbling block among her seven rivals is undoubtedly My Tent Or Yours.
The six-year-old, owned by JP McManus, won four of his six starts over hurdles last season, with one of his two defeats coming in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham where he was narrowly beaten by Champagne Fever.
Nicky Henderson’s charge made amends in great style at Aintree in April and will be a warm order to open his Grade One account.