A return to his favourite course sparked D’Argent back to life as the veteran grey splashed through the mud to claim the totesport.com Classic Chase at Warwick.
Alan King’s 11-year-old had looked out of sorts on his two previous starts this winter and after his unplaced finish in the Hennessy he faced the starter as an 18-1 chance.
With 30 millimetres of rain the previous day, conditions were gruelling but Robert Thornton’s mount jumped to the lead seven fences from home and shrugged off the attentions of Philson Run to collect by seven lengths.
D’Argent had registered a hat-trick of novice chase wins at the track in the 2003/4 season and took second in this race – Warwick’s feature event of the year - three years ago.
King said: “It is great when the old boys come back. We have had him a long time so I am thrilled.
“You have to catch him right, but my wife Rachel clips him and said he was back to himself this week, so that just shows what the trainer knows!
“He ran very well for a long way in the Hennessy and has been pleasing me since.
“If he hadn’t run well today we were thinking about retiring him but now we’ll look at the Midlands National, which he finished second in last season.”
Philson Run had taken fourth place in last season’s John Smith’s Grand National and totesport quote him at 25-1 to score at Aintree this year, with trainer Nick Williams confirming the race will be the 12-year-old’s target.
The Grade Two Ballymore Properties Leamington Novices’ Hurdle was turned into a procession as Mark Bradstock’s Carruthers led from pillar-to-post to claim the scalps of some more fancied rivals.
Mattie Batchelor never saw another rival throughout and his mount overcame mistakes at the last two flights to register a thumping 13-length victory from Nenuphar Collonges, with 11-8 favourite Souffleur 17 lengths further adrift.
Bradstock said of the 8-1 winner: “He will have an entry in the two-and-a-half-mile race and the three-miler at Cheltenham, and the latter is more likely as he stays so well.”
Carruthers is owned in partnership by Bradstock’s father-in-law Lord Oaksey, who added: “That was wonderful wasn’t it? I couldn’t believe how easily he was going.”
Oaksey’s charge was given a 20-1 quote by Blue Square for the shorter Ballymore Properties’ Novices’ Hurdle.
Comebacks don’t come much better than Philip Hide’s as he enjoyed a dream return to the saddle in the toteexacta Novices’ Chase on the Gary Moore-trained Verasi.
The 34-year-old had been on the sidelines since February but displayed plenty of panache aboard the 7-4 shot as they led over the second-last to confirm Lingfield placings with Old Benny.
Hide said: “I had a fall at Cheltenham in November 2006 when I injured my pelvis and had only been back riding two weeks in February when I did my shoulder.
“That meant a six-month recuperation period but my pelvis started playing up again and I have had it resurfaced, which is one down from a replacement.
“It has all worked out well and I’ll keep riding while I enjoy it.”
The testing conditions suited Ballyshan and the 5-1 chance made all to deny 7-4 favourite Cryptic in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Series.
Carl Llewellyn’s Letalus (4-1) defied a rise in the weights following his Boxing Day victory to take the totescoop6 Handicap Chase under Paul Moloney, while Neil King’s El Zorro (9-1) overcame an absence of 658 days in the toteplacepot Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Llewellyn completed a double as he trained and rode the 5-1 shot Voice Of Reason to a half-length victory in the totesport 0800 221 221 Standard Open NH Flat Race.
He said: “That is the third year in a row I have won this race following on from Roll Along and Den Of Iniquity, but I think this horse is more of a galloper than Den Of Iniquity.
“He isn’t good enough for the Cheltenham bumper and will have one more run this season before we sen