Sky Pirate opened the door to bigger and better targets after continuing his progression over fences with victory in the Edward Courage Cup at Warwick.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained eight-year-old defied an 11lb hike in the weights following victory at Cheltenham to make it two wins from as many starts since being dropped back to two miles.
Moving past long-time leader Generous Day approaching the second-last, the 13-8 favourite pulled out plenty to defeat Amoola Gold by two and a quarter lengths in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill junior.
The winning rider said: “He is a bit of an enigma, as he has never shown at home that he wants two miles.
“But we had been meaning to try it and it worked out well at Cheltenham and it has worked out well again today. He is an improver at this trip.
“I think people have been getting him slightly wrong as I’m just not sure he gets the two and a half we were aiming him at, but I think he stays two miles strongly.”
Following the race Sky Pirate was cut from 7-1 into 6-1 favourite for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival by Paddy Power – a race which O’Neill junior believes could be a suitable aim.
He added: “He would (be a horse for a Grand Annual). He has won off 145 and won quite nicely. He is still a novice so we would have to have a look, but he will be entered up in everything I’d imagine.”
Will Sting (7-2) made the most of a drop back to two miles when giving weight all round to claim the Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Hurdle by nine and a half lengths.
Jockey Aidan Coleman said of the Lucy Wadham-trained winner: “The drop back in trip helped him. They went quite quick on that ground and they probably stopped a bit in front.
“He’S a nice-moving horse. I’d not sat on him before, but that ground didn’t seem an issue even though it was different to what he won on around Huntingdon.”