Banjaxed Girl showed there are few tougher staying mares in the jumping world when putting a rare flop behind her with a convincing success in the 32Red.com Mares' Hurdle at Sandown today.
On ground described as testing by most of the jockeys that rode in the two-and-a-half-mile Listed race, Banjaxed Girl made every yard and gritted her teeth to tough it out and find more when threatened by 20-1 outsider Alasi approaching the final flight.
Sam Twiston-Davies had left something up his sleeve and when asking his mount for more, the 6-4 favourite pulled further clear to score by two and a half lengths. It was another three-quarters of a length back to the third, Silver Gypsy.
With trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies at Chepstow, his representative said: "She was very good today and put her Cheltenham run behind her back in her own grade. I think she just had an off-day last time, and remains on course for the David Nicholson race at the Festival."
The winning rider praised his mount when, saying: "She was in a tough race last time but she thrives on hard work and showed her true colours today. When something comes to her she just keeps finding extra."
Music Of The Moor transferred his winning form on soft ground from the Flat into the same over jumps when landing the 32Red Poker Juvenile Hurdle for Tom Tate and James Reveley.
The 8-1 shot loomed as a potent threat to long-time leader Professor Emery after even-money favourite Comedy Act weakened disappointingly at the end of the back stretch after tracking the leader in second.
Backers of the Yorkshire-trained winner had their hearts in their mouths when he made a mistake at the last flight and surrendered the lead to Lamps, but he quickly recovered to assert and score by a length and a quarter.
With Tate getting ready to leave for a winter holiday skiing, his representative Rachel Westwood said: "This is his ground and it always was on the Flat. We have five jumpers in total, a couple of bumper horses and three hurdlers."
Nicto De Beauchene provided further evidence that Victor Dartnall's stable is firing on all cylinders after the freeze as he powered up the hill to land the 32Red.com Handicap Chase under Andrew Glassonbury.
The 15-2 chance jumped superbly, and in a race depleted by four in its number because of the testing going, absolutely revelled in the conditions to score by 16 lengths and nine from Quattrocento and Leading Contender.
Glassonbury takes the view his mount could develop into a Grand National contender, but with a rise in the handicap of around a stone required for that, together with soft ground at Aintree, it is more likely that Dartnall will point Nicto De Beauchene at the Midlands National, a race he has already won.
His brother Gerry explained: "Going to Woolacombe beach has paid off during the freeze. We went there several times and our gallops were only re-opened earlier this week.
"Andrew said he's a National horse, but it would have to be soft old ground."
Two sizeable gambles in the race failed to pay off, with 7-2 favourite Youngstown fading into fourth after looking dangerous at the Pond fence, and Midnight Haze weakening from a good early pitch following a similar on-course plunge.
Minella Class lived up to his name to totally dominate the 32Red Hurdle (formerly the Tolworth Hurdle) for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, justifying some heavy morning support that pushed his price in from 11-4 to 6-4 favourite.
The former Irish-trained gelding took charge of the Grade One race after the final flight on the far side and once in front never looked like surrendering a lead that widened to seven lengths from Megastar at the line.
The deposed favourite Toubab finished a tired third with jockey Sam Thomas reporting the gelding did not enjoy the going.
Henderson reckons his smart winner may go down the Neptune Novices' Hurdle route at the Festival, for which he was cut to 12-1 from 16s by William Hill and gained a 12-1 first show with both totesport and Paddy Power, rather than the shorter Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
The Seven Barrows trainer said: "On his Irish form he'd run in these conditions before. He stayed really well and quickened up.
"I would think it would be up to two and a half miles - the Sidney Banks Hurdle at Huntingdon would make sense to see if he stays, but I imagine he will. He'll obviously make a lovely chaser, but that's for another day."