Nicky Henderson might have been taking a brief post-Cheltenham holiday but his stable continues to send out the winners regardless, as 1-9 favourite Lyvius obliged at Warwick without breaking sweat.
Henderson retreated to Switzerland after an astonishing Festival, where seven victories earned him the position of the most successful trainer in the history of the meeting, as well as nosing him just past Paul Nicholls in the 2011-12 championship standings.
Lyvius’ place in the Cheltenham squad was revoked when he failed to beat Gottany O’s in a Triumph Hurdle prep-run at Newbury, although there is a reasonable chance he could appear at another of the big spring events after proving far too good for his rivals in the TurfTV Novices’ Hurdle.
Already a winner on his British debut at Kelso, the David Bass-ridden Lyvius did not extend himself to draw five lengths clear of Beggar’s Velvet on the run-in.
Henderson’s assistant, Ben Pauling, said: “That was as expected, really.
“He still didn’t jump brilliantly, he’s still a bit big and bold, but when he got in tight to them he was a bit slicker.
“He had to win at Newbury really, as we don’t run horses in big races unless we think they can win.
“I imagine he’ll go for a better race now, maybe at Aintree or in a decent handicap somewhere.”
Nicholls trails by the racing equivalent of loose change in the championship and the Grand National meeting will prove decisive with Henderson stars like Long Run, Burton Port, Finian’s Rainbow and Sprinter Sacre all potential runners.
“The boss gets back tonight but the horses are all as fresh as daisies,” said Pauling.
“It’s amazing really, and hopefully we’ll go to Aintree with a strong team.”
Just as easy a winner later on was Bow To No One, who was last seen in action in the Cesarewitch.
Introduced gently to jumping in three novice races the previous spring, Alan Jarvis’ mare went off the 5-4 favourite for the Whitson Bloodstock Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and never gave followers of the canny trainer a moment’s worry.
Jarvis’ son Tom said: “She had been a bit unlucky over hurdles as she had been hampered when horses fell in front of her, but she’s grown up a bit now. She’s my dad’s favourite horse, so he’ll be sorry he wasn’t here.”
Joe Cornwall lost his 7lb claim with a polished front-running ride on Hever Road (13-2) in the Tribute To Molson Coors Customers Handicap Chase.
Trainer David Pearson was running his entire string at Warwick, with Ballycracken also fourth on the card.
Pearson, who is based at High Peak in Derbyshire, said: “Joe is a super young rider and that was his 20th winner.
“I’m very pleased with him. He didn’t like the ground at Towcester last week but he likes it around here.”
A partnership between Republic of Ireland international footballers John O’Shea and Stephen Hunt bore fruit in the Willerby Holiday Homes Maiden Hurdle when Leath Acra Mor (15-2) got the best of a final struggle with Orangeaday.
“He found two miles too sharp, so a longer trip and a more positive ride have helped,” said trainer Ian Williams.
“This is the first horse the owners have had with me, and they will be delighted with a winner.”
Trainer Richard Phillips has struck a little bit of form this week and Whenever (15-2) chipped in when taking the King Henry’s Taverns Steaks Handicap Hurdle by five lengths.
“That’s two winners this week. I think it was just the right trip and the right ground – he doesn’t like it soft,” said Phillips.
“He’s been a good horse for us – he won at Goodwood and Doncaster on the Flat, and at Chepstow last August – and we could put him on the Flat again.
“His owners, the Dozen Dreamers, have been with me since I started training 20 years ago.”
Erratic 1-2 favourite Fighting Chance provided little resistance to Ours (13-8) in the two-runner Warwick Handicap Chase..