Edwardstone confirmed his superiority over Third Time Lucki with a faultless display in the Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick.
Alan King’s eight-year-old was already at the top of the list with some firms in the ante-post betting for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham next month, and he is now as short as 7-4 favourite for the second race on Tuesday.
Having his fifth run of the season, Edwardstone had a Grade One in the bag from the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown when Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki was left trailing in his wake.
But Skelton was keen to have another crack at him, after Third Time Lucki strolled to victory in a Grade Two at Doncaster.
Throw into the mix Venetia Williams’ progressive handicapper Brave Seasca and Alex Hales’ headstrong For Pleasure, it looked a really intriguing four-runner race.
However, when Tom Cannon moved the 10-11 market leader up alongside For Pleasure down the back straight the rest were soon out of their comfort zone.
Even though Harry Skelton had not asked for everything on Third Time Lucki at the third-last, the usual smooth-traveller was going quicker than he wanted to and that showed when he made a mistake.
Edwardstone scooted away over the final two fences to win by four and a quarter lengths, to set himself up perfectly for his Festival assignment.
“He was very good and he loved that ground. His jumping was electric and he saw it out nicely – the way he jumped the last two it was great to be on board,” said his delighted rider.
“He’s always had an engine and everything he has done all his career has built up to this season for him as a chaser and to improve.
“This has been the plan for some time and it’s nice it’s come to fruition. It’s always nice when the horse does the talking for you.
“He’s a good horse. Obviously Cheltenham is the aim. There is a lot of time between now and then. We just hope to get him there in one piece.”
He added: “He’s definitely the best horse I’ve sat on. He’s the horse of a lifetime. Horses like him don’t come along very often for the things he has done for me this year – two Grade Twos and a Grade One. It’s hard to win one. I’m on a high tide.”
Skelton offered up no excuses for his charge and was quick to praise the winner.
“I was very happy with our horse. He travelled and jumped beautifully. He did nothing wrong,” he said.
“There was a small percentage chance that having run two weeks ago it would take out a little bit. I went to Doncaster because we were guaranteed the ground. If I had been guaranteed this ground I wouldn’t have gone there. We’d have come straight here and been a little closer, perhaps.
“The winner won well and I think he’s a very strong contender for an Arkle. I know my horse didn’t necessarily under-perform. If he did it was by pennies, not pounds.
“We will keep him in the Arkle, but I think the reality is he will go to Aintree. I have thought in a minute it is going to rain and when it does it won’t stop for a while and I wouldn’t want to run him in a soft ground race.
“I’m happy with our horse – no excuses.”