Ton up for Maguire
Jason Maguire sealed his 100th winner of the season at Doncaster as he continues to lead the pack in vain pursuit of Tony McCoy.
It was only last year that the Irishman assumed the mantle from 14-time runner-up Richard Johnson, with whom he is closely matched again, but they are already more than 60 adrift of the perennial leader.
The century came aboard Diamond King, who appears one of the smarter prospects for Maguire's boss Donald McCain as many of his best-known jumpers have not been seen this winter.
While 2-5 favourite Diamond King won the Download The All New freebets.co.uk "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle with acute ease, his trainer was hesitant about the likelihood of the Diana Whateley-owned gelding being aimed for the Cheltenham Festival.
A three-and-three-quarter-length success, though, was an improvement upon Bangor last month, where he lost his unbeaten record by stumbling through the final flight.
"It's great to do it for Donald, and if you'd said to me at the start of the season I'd get 100 by January, I'd take it," said Maguire, achieving the mark for the fourth time.
McCain said: "I'm pleased for Jason, he's a huge asset to the yard as well as being a mate.
"We think the world of him (Diamond King). He stepped into the last at Bangor and I don't know how he stayed up.
"I came here for better ground and I'd like to see him over two and a half miles in a better race now."
Asked about Cheltenham, McCain said: "He's a young horse and he's going to be a chaser, so we'll have to see."
A mild afternoon with the promise of good to soft ground drew runners from across the country, with David Pipe's Western Warhorse justifying the journey from Devon.
Western Warhorse (2-1) has had a patchy career over hurdles and had to be withdrawn from Kempton on Boxing Day after bolting at the start, but he could prove far better over fences judged by the Check Out The All New freebets.co.uk Novices' Chase.
Sent off in front by Tom Scudamore, Western Warhorse jumped confidently but only just got home over the two and a half miles, with Victor Hewgo closing to a neck.
"He's a bit of a fruit-loop, but he's a fruit-loop that does jump and gallop," said Scudamore.
"He is what he is, really, but his jumping has won it. Maybe the second horse is a good one, we'll find out in time.
"He won an Irish point-to-point so we always thought he'd stay three miles, but he hadn't got home over three miles so far over hurdles."
James Evans brought about a change of fortunes for Softsong in division one of the 1stsecuritysolutions.co.uk Maiden Hurdle.
Carrying the familiar blue and white colours of Andrew Cohen, the 5-1 chance drew a blank in two seasons with Philip Hobbs but ultimately wound out a very impressive 10-length winner here, with jockey Liam Treadwell looking around for dangers.
"Hopefully there's more to come," said the Worcestershire trainer.
"He jumped well and I'd imagine we'll step him up in trip. The owners have made no secret they would like to go for the Pertemps Final, so we'll have to get him qualified now."
Evans has another leading contender for the same race in Trackmate.
Nicky Henderson's Act Alone (7-2), placed in both bumper starts, was a class apart in division two.
Jockey Nico de Boinville said: "Bumpers have really focussed him and he did it well.
"He loved the ground, and the further he went, the better he went."
Forced Family Fun (5-1) put up no mean performance for a four-year-old to come out on top against his elders in the Pegler Yorkshire Handicap Hurdle.
Asked if Cheltenham's Fred Winter might be a target, trainer John Quinn said: "It could be - he travels round grand and jumps well."
Tom George was satisfied to see Ifyousayso (11-2) hold one of his former horses, 4-1 favourite Triangular, in the Big Casino bonus.co.uk Handicap Chase.
Robert Thornton did the business on Chasse En Mer ahead of 11-8 favourite Queen Spud in the Super Bingo Bonuses bonus.co.uk Mares' Handicap Hurdle, with Nicky Richards' Top Billing (4-1 favourite) the answer to the Bingo Bonus Codes At bingobonuscodes.co.uk Handicap Hurdle.