Blue Bajan staked an early claim for top jumping honours next winter by showing a terrific turn of foot to win the totepool Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
Trainer Andy Turnell plans to test the water in December when running the former smart Flat performer in the Boylesports International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Swindon trainer has every reason to be optimistic after Blue Bajan landed a gamble in real style.
Available at 10-1 in the morning, he was backed down to 4-1 favourite.
Graham Lee got a dream run up the far rail to make his challenge after I’m So Lucky had set out to make all the running and stormed eight lengths clear of I’m So Lucky, with Ellerslie Tom a length and a quarter away in third and Dreamy Gent fourth.
“I had high hopes of him being a good hurdler and I think he could be, though obviously he’s got some way to go yet,” said Turnell.
“I think we’ll put him away for the summer and concentrate on a jumping campaign.
“He has won in the soft but he’s a lot better horse on faster ground.
“He’ll probably go for the Boylesports to see if he is Champion Hurdle class.
“Hopefully I’ll get a run in to him before that and then give him a winter break.”
I’m So Lucky’s trainer David Pipe also went close in the toteplacepot Long Distance Handicap Hurdle when saddling Very Cool, Buena Vista and Openditch to fill the places behind Philip Hobbs’ Liberate.
The 10-1 shot found extra on the run-in to win by a half a length.
“We had a very frustrating season with him,” said Hobbs.
“He was second in the Triumph Hurdle the previous year and were struggling with him to be competitive off a high handicap mark.
“I think he’ll go for the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting, the handicap over two an a half miles.
“He’s rated 87 on the Flat so that might be quite attractive. There will be no hurdle race for him now and he wants fast ground.”
Oscar Bay (5-1) made a pleasing debut over fences when giving Jimmy Frost his first winner on the track as a trainer in the toteexacta Beginners’ Chase.
Reverence (9-2) may return to Haydock for the Temple Stakes in a fortnight after gaining his first success since the Betfred Sprint Cup in September 2006 when taking the Enter The Flat totetentofollow Conditions Stakes.
Trainer Eric Alston never lost faith in the dual Group One winner, who beat Machinist by half a length.
“We were going to wait for the Temple Stakes as long as it’s not firm, but we thought we’d come for this first,” said Alston.
Appalachian Trail (16-1) came with a late swoop to claim the Listed totesport Home Of Pool Betting Spring Trophy.
Linda Perratt’s seven-year-old finished to such effect for Fergal Lynch that he had three and a quarter lengths to spare over Diamond Tycoon.
“He was poorly when he was in Dubai during the winter, but he’s been working really well at home and we thought he would run well,” said Perratt.
“The owners would like to win a Group Three with him.”
Tony Carroll’s Harbour Blues (14-1) held Cape Vale by a head in the totescoop6 Handicap, while Danidh Dubai (9-2) made her racecourse experience count to get off the mark in the Bet totepool On UK Racing Median Auction Maiden Stakes.