Our Armageddon shone as brightly as the Staffordshire sunshine after registering a top-drawer victory in the Singer & Friedlander Handicap Chase at Uttoxeter.
Richard Guest has had a lean time of things this term but looks to have finally turned the corner on the evidence of this rousing display from his 2004 Cathcar Chase winner.
The nine-year-old has been lightly-raced since that Cheltenham triumph but shaped with promise o his last two outings and never looked back here once surging to the head of affairs after Bannow Strand blundered at the eighth fence.
Runner-up He’s The Guvnor emerged as Our Armageddon’s biggest danger but a mistake at the penultimate obstacle put paid to his chances as Guest’s charge secured a four-length success at odds of 11-1.
He’s The Guvnor atoned for his error by staying on for second place, while Better Days finished third, six lengths further in arrears of the winner.
“It’s a tough old game but days like this make it so worthwhile,” said Guest.
“He wasn’t going particularly well on that dead ground, but when they came round again he picked back up on the bridle and will clearly get three miles now - which I had my doubts about before.
“He’s in everything at Cheltenham and the Mildmay of Flete looks an option. But Liverpool was always the target and he’ll now probably go for the Topham on the Friday of Aintree.”
Ginger McCain’s 14-year-old National hero Amberleigh House finished last of the seven to complete, but the in-form stable could not have wished for a better start to the day with Paddy Aspell initiating a 54-1 double in the first two races of the afternoon for a yard also on the mark at Haydock.
Triple Mint (9-1) was always close to the pace in the opening toteplacepot Novices’ Hurdle and capitalised on runner-up Major Catch’s mistake at the last to score by one and a half lengths.
And the Cholmondeley team were back in the winner’s enclosure 30 minutes later when The Wife’s Sister, carrying the colours made famous by Red Rum, underscored his appetite for the Uttoxeter timber with a clear-cut success in the Peter J Douglas Engineering Novices’ Selling Hurdle.
Donald McCain junior was happy with the outcome of the race but less so with the result of the subsequent auction after The Wife’s Sister was sold to Nick Shutts for 7,400guineas.
“He did it really nicely but I never like losing horses and that is very disappointing,” said McCain, who is set to replace his father in the hotseat at the end of the season.
Jockey Gary Bartley was even more rueful after the race after he was hit with a two-day ban for using his whip when Mist Opportunity was out of contention. Bartley will be out of action on March 1 as well as one notified remedial day.
The Coral Cup at Cheltenham is now on the horizon for Dom d’Orgeval after Nick Williams’ gelding eked out a third win on the bounce in the valuable totescoop6 Handicap Hurdle.
Once the Martin Pipe-trained Nous Voila relinquished the lead with a slight hash at the penultimate hurdle, the 17-2 chance stuck to his task to keep fast-finishing runner-up Victom’s Chance at bay beneath the shadow of the post.
“The race panned out exactly as we expected and the ground was not a problem at all,” said Williams.
Michael O’Connell earned many new admirers with an excellent performance aboard the Sue Smith-trained Corlande (4-1) in the Betfred Poker Handicap Hurdle.
Despite momentarily losing the advantage on the run-in, the 10lb claimer showed laudable grit to get his mount home with half a length to spare from runner-up Just Beth.
Trust Fund’s fall at the second-last gifted Blunham Hill (6-1) victory in the totesport.com Handicap Chase, while Speed Venture (7-1) followed up on his success at Bangor last time to take the concluding Kevin Dean Benefit Year Handicap Hurdle.