Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old never looked in any danger on his way to a three-length win in the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle under teenage jockey Harry Cobden.
The win preceded Tizzard’s landmark Gold Cup success with Native River before Tizzard and Cobden, 19, joined forces at Aintree when Ultragold won the Topham Chase over the Grand National course for a second successive year.
“He was very impressive at Cheltenham and I don’t see any reason why that was a fluke,” said Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe. “Aintree just came a bit too quick for him. He has the best part of six weeks since he last ran and he has beaten them all before.
“He should not have a problem handling the quicker surface, as he handled that sort of ground in the autumn.”
Kilbricken Storm will need to beat the might of Willie Mullins who fields three, headed by Next Destination.
Altior is likely to face a small field as he signs off for the season at Sandown on Saturday in the bet365 Celebration Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s superstar, who won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in gritty style at Cheltenham last month, could face a maximum of eight rivals in the season-ending Grade One race.
Former Champion Chase hero Special Tiara, a good ground specialist, is the most notable rival.
Mark Johnston’s stable is hopeful of a strong showing from Dee Ex Bee in today’s Investec Blue Riband Trial at Epsom – a trial for the Derby.
Already a winner at Epsom, the Middleham runner carries the highest official rating of those that have one into the race. “Dee Ex Bee has wintered very well, he has been doing a lot of work with Mildenberger (Feilden Stakes winner) this Spring so we’re hopeful of a big run from him,” said Johnston’s son and assistant Charlie.