McCoy in treble form
Champion jockey Tony McCoy rode three winners from three rides at Plumpton, highlighted by a narrow win for Cantlow.
Cantlow's jumping will come under greater scrutiny the further he progresses, but his connections now have the opportunity to avail themselves of a valuable bonus offered by race sponsors SIS.
The first horse Paul Webber has trained for JP McManus gave McCoy a couple of hair-raising moments during the SIS Live Novices' Chase but he eventually completed his task and will take a £60,000 bonus payout if winning a race over fences at the Cheltenham Festival.
The champion jockey was hardly making any guarantees of this happening, particularly as he had been forced to sit tight when Cantlow (5/4) crashed through the fourth from home and was not fluent at the last either.
But he had shown ability when third in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, and was able to thwart a late challenge from the 10/11 favourite Oscara Dara by a length and a quarter.
"Having had two previous runs was a huge advantage on testing ground like that, not that it felt like it going down the back straight," said McCoy.
"But they are quickening downhill to the fourth last and horses like this need practice.
"I couldn't see the last fence because of the sun, so I was just keeping his revs up".
Asked about Cantlow's chances of winning the bonus, McCoy said: "He couldn't win a handicap over hurdles at Cheltenham, but we'll see."
Webber said: "There was never a dull moment but he got the job done.
"We know he will stay further than two miles and a furlong, and that will come in time.
"It's an honour to have a horse for JP, and quite a relief to give him a first winner."
McCoy, who rode three winners from as many rides on the card, earlier inched Brendan Powell one closer to a notable milestone when Sir Fredlot (1/3 favourite) readily defeated stablemate Lady Romanza in the Jessica & Ella Juvenile Hurdle.
The Grand National-winning rider has had a licence since 2000 and believed this was his 498th training success from Flat and National Hunt runners.
"It would be lovely if we could get the 500 up over Christmas," said Powell.
"They went a suicidal pace on his last run at Folkestone and this was an ideal confidence booster."
McCoy rounded off in the concluding Windmill Catering Handicap Hurdle when the long-absent Thunderstorm (5/2) scored with plenty in hand.
Jim Best felt the J H Builders "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle hardly played to the strengths of 11/8 favourite Ace Fighter Pilot.
The two hurdles in the home straight were bypassed due to the low sun, meaning the last was jumped halfway down the back, by which point Jamie Moore was already in charge.
"He's a half-brother to (2003 Grand National fourth) Gunner Welburn, so (brother and assistant) Tom and I are always joking he'll be a National horse one day," said the Lewes trainer.
"It was a bonus to even win a bumper, and a bonus to win two hurdles as he's really a three-mile chaser."
Ballinhassig (6/1) shredded the formbook for the small Sarah Wall stable when coming home unchallenged in the GE White & Sons Agricultural Buildings Handicap Chase.
"I think he's just run himself fit this season," said jockey Marc Goldstein.
"He didn't like it at Fontwell last week but he likes it here. I know he was a stone out of the handicap but he just kept galloping."
There was yet another local success, this time for the Ashurst Wood yard of Zoe Davison, when John's Gem (11/4 joint-favourite) repelled the Best-trained Sudden Light in the Derek Hunnisett Memorial Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Jonathan Geake and jockey Mark Grant continue to lead the seasonal standings at the Sussex course with Ballyman burning off the other even-money favourite Captain Tidds in the JH Builders Handicap Chase.
"He's a bit of a monkey anyway but I think the first time visor has helped. This fitted before a break over Christmas," said Geake.
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