Ballyandy lands Betfair gamble
Market leaders Ballyandy (3/1 favourite) and Movewiththeimes (6/1) dominated the Betfair Hurdle with Nigel Twiston-Davies' runner coming out on top.
Ballyandy held off the challenge of Movewiththeimes
Successful on this card 12 months ago, Ballyandy had been all the rage since the betting opened but Paul Nicholls had made no secret of the regard in which he held Movewiththeimes.
As the race developed in earnest in the straight, their respective jockeys were still in the saddle side by side with the rest of the field hard at work.
Sam Twiston-Davies asked Ballyandy for a big jump at the final flight and the six-year-old didn't disappoint and came out of the obstacle with a clear lead.
Movewiththetimes stuck to his guns under Barry Geraghty but Twiston-Davies – first jockey to Nicholls – and Ballyandy wouldn't be denied.
The pair were separated by three parts of a length while Clyne, six lengths adrift, finished best of the rest with Song Light running another big race in fourth.
The winner's stablemate Ballyhill had helped to cut out a strong gallop and while Clyne was always prominent, the principals were tucked away in midfield.
The field bunched up a little on the turn to the straight with Movewiththeimes making a move around the outside from the rear of the field to take a prominent position.
Ballyhill soon had his every move covered as the remainder couldn't go with them, the pair settled down to a game of cat and mouse with neither jockey willing to commit first.
Both jockeys asked for more of an effort approaching the last and it was last season's Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner who proved strongest in the finish to spark dreams of further Festival success with the trainer initially identifying the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle as his target.
"It's lovely when a plan works out. He's been unlucky and hasn't won any of the races we thought he would. What a consolation!" Twiston-Davies senior told ITV Racing.
"He'll go to Cheltenham now for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle."
"I was gutted he was beaten the three times before. We were not hiding anything under a bush, he was unlucky to get beaten. We are delighted with that but the one I thought would win (Bristol De Mai) didn't."
It was a great day for the family as Twiston-Davies' other jockey son Willie, rode the stable's Flying Angel to victory in the Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick.
His brother Sam said: "It worked out great. Nigel's horses have been in tremendous form and this fella has done very well.
"Willie has done a great job at Warwick.
"This race went really well. I had a smooth passage. He didn't jump as well as I might have liked down the back, but in the straight he came alive.
"I got there sooner than I would have liked, but with his cruising speed it just happened and he has a good turn of foot."
The winning trainer went on: "I was gutted he was beaten the three times before. We were not hiding anything under a bush, he was unlucky to get beaten.
"It was the first time ever the handicapper had given us a bit of a chance. We are delighted with that but the one I thought would win (Bristol De Mai) didn't."
On reflection, Twiston-Davies will also consider the Neptune at Cheltenham for Ballyandy.
"He could go for the Supreme now, but at the moment he is also in the two-and-a-half-mile race as well," he said.
"If it is good ground he does stay, so it maybe he goes for the two-and-a-half-mile race.
"We could not understand him getting beaten in those first three races, there were no real excuses. He has always been a superstar, as we know from Cheltenham.
"The strong pace helped. The world is his oyster at the moment."
Paul Nicholls said of runner-up Movewiththetimes: "He will be some chaser. He is still a bit babyish, but has run a nice race and there are no excuses.
"He was just a bit green as that was his only fourth start over hurdles and he has never been off the bridle before.
"He is just a really nice horse. He is in the Supreme and the Neptune. We will see what the owner wants."