Harry Cobden steered Old Guard to National Spirit Hurdle glory and declared: He’s a little star.
The seven-year-old son of Notnowcato, who is trained by Paul Nicholls, won the £80,000 feature at Fontwell on Sunday.
The 11/4-shot eased clear of 2016 champion Lil Rockerfeller to win his second Grade 2 title by one-and-a-half lengths.
And with it he booked a shot at the Stayers’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Jockey Cobden, who will be in the plate for the Prestbury Park Grade 1, said: ‘He is a dude. He owes me nothing.
‘I won a Greatwood on him on something like my 10th ride. He is a little star.
‘I didn’t want to get there too soon. He got there, found it easy and probably hacked up in the end.’
Nicholls celebrated four wins on the card with Copain De Classe, The Last But One and Unioniste also scoring – the first two ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.
The 10-times champion trainer said: ‘He is Harry’s ride now as Sam is riding The New One in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
‘The more it was drying out the better as he ran a really good race in the International.
‘I shouldn’t have run him last time as he hates heavy ground.
‘Here I just told Harry be positive as he will gallop and stay. And he really did.
‘It is good to see him perform this year. He just likes good ground and he has been an amazing horse for the owners (who include TV celebrity Jeremy Kyle).’
Lil Rockerfeller will also head for the Stayers’ Hurdle, where he finished a superb second last season.
Neil King tried him with blinkers for the first time at Fontwell but, despite producing a good run in defeat, he may resort to the tried and tested cheekpieces at Cheltenham.
The Wiltshire trainer said: ‘He has run a smashing race. The only problem is one finished in front of us.
‘He has done nothing wrong. But I don’t think the blinkers have done a lot for him, to be honest.
‘If we are okay on Monday morning, then he will go for the Stayers’ Hurdle.
‘My immediate reaction would be to put the cheekpieces on as I can’t see they have sharpened him up at all.
‘He has just run his run his race like he usually does.’
Fresh from his feature triumph, Cobden completed a double with Colin Tizzard’s Quiz Master in the totetrifecta Handicap Hurdle at 4/1.
Nicholls’ quadruple began with Copain De Classe sauntering to victory in the toteplacepot Josh Gifford Memorial Novices’ Chase.
Sent off the 4/6 favourite, the six-year-old Enrique gelding ran most of the race on his own after sole rival Space Oddity unseated Noel Fehily at the second fence.
The Last But One sealed a quickfire double for the Nicholls/Twiston-Davies partnership, justifying 5/2-favouritism with a three-length win in the totequadpot Handicap Chase.
The yard’s fourth victory of the afternoon came in the totepool Betting At totesport.com Open Hunters’ Chase, courtesy of Unioniste.
A former Grand National contender, the 4/11-favourite beat Real Milan by 22 lengths.
Pulborough-based Leighton Aspell climbed aboard Oliver Sherwood’s Jersey Bean for an 11/2 win in the totepool Supporting The Racehorse Sanctuary Novices’ Hurdle.
And the final horse in the winners’ enclosure was The Flying Sofa. The 13/8 joint-favourite enjoyed the better ground to put a poor run at Fontwell in January firmly behind him and get off the mark.
Our friends at AccaDoo were on the mark with four of the seven winners, including Old Guard, in their regular tipping column at portsmouth.co.uk