Sire De Grugy bounced back to his best with a superb weight-carrying display in the Rifles Handicap Chase at Chepstow on Saturday.
Some had questioned the wisdom of trainer Gary Moore running the defending Queen Mother Champion Chase winner so close to the Cheltenham Festival but his decision went a long way to being vindicated.
Once again travelling with his usual zest, despite the very soft ground, his jumping was much better than at Newbury, where he unseated Jamie Moore.
There were some massive leaps as he beat a solid yardstick Grey Gold by seven lengths.
“You could see he came up out of my hands a couple of times, which he never really did at Newbury,” said the jockey.
“He’s back on song now.”
Paul Nicholls landed the BetBright Chase at Kempton with Rocky Creek, who in the process advertised his Crabbie’s Grand National claims.
The Ditcheat handler also saddled the favourite Easter Day but stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies had overlooked him in favour of the winner.
Just below top class, Rocky Creek (8-1) jumped the last in front in the National last season before fading into fifth but Nicholls feels he will last home this year after a breathing operation.
“That is just what we wanted before Aintree,” said Nicholls.
The Ditcheat handler also won the Pendil Novices’ Chase with even-money favourite Irish Saint.
“He is in the JLT (at Cheltenham) and we might look at it if it is testing as stamina comes in, otherwise he goes to Aintree,” said Nicholls.
Trainer Robert Stephens has a live candidate for the Triumph Hurdle in Beltor, who ran away with the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, while Nicky Henderson is looking at Aintree for Dovecote scorer Days Of Heaven.
At Newcastle, Ayr-based Ulsterman Ian Duncan won the Eider with Milborough, who now has the Scottish National as his aim.
Roi Du Mee claimed the At The Races Bobyjo Chase at Fairyhouse for the second time and may head to Aintree, while Mallowney was the star turn at Naas a day later.
Tim Doyle’s even-money favourite breezed clear in the Grade Two Paddy Power Your Local Betting Shop Chase but will not run at the Cheltenham Festival.
Doyle said: “He’ll probably go to Fairyhouse for the Normans Grove and Punchestown (Champion Chase) after that.”