Valdez King for a day
Valdez made the most of having his sights lowered as he strode clear of his rivals to score at Plumpton.
Valdez made the most of having his sights lowered as he strode clear in the Race Passes At timeform.com Novices' Hurdle at Plumpton.
A dual bumper winner last season for Alan King, the six-year-old opened his account over obstacles at the second attempt at Huntington in mid-November before coming up short in a race won by subsequent Tolworth hero Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham.
With no horses of that calibre to worry about in East Sussex, Valdez was a warm order, sent off the 1/2 favourite and the result was scarcely in doubt.
Never far off the pace over two miles, the market leader was pulling for his head in the early stages and jockey Robert Thornton let his mount stride to the front with a circuit to run.
Valdez gradually quickened the tempo and soon had his rivals cooked, pulling clear in the home straight to score by 10 lengths from Asker.
"We dawdled and he has always been a free-running type. He did settle better the last day, obviously in better company," Thornton told At The Races.
"I didn't want to be going that slow so I've let him run. I thought he'd settle in front and he's actually rushed a bit, but it won't do him any harm.
"He's won as he liked and he's going the right way."
The feature event of the day was the SIS Live Handicap Chase, with almost £10,000 going to the winner.
Top honours went to the Richard Lee-trained Simply Wings (7/2), who picked up well in the hands of talented conditional Micheal Nolan to take the prize by six lengths from Lord Singer.
"He's done that nicely. I won a beginners' chase on him at Towcester in early December and he felt quite nice then. I fancied him big time today," said Nolan.
The trainer's wife, Carol, said: "He deserved a crack at a nice prize. At Cheltenham last time he did the splits at the third last and it cost him everything.
"At Towcester when he won he jumped beautifully and he jumped very nicely today.
"We'll see what the handicapper does. There are plenty of opportunities. Two and a half miles in the mud is ideal for him."
There was a surprise in the Timeform Jury Handicap Chase as 40/1 shot Upton Mead struck gold on his first start for permit holder Kevin Tork, giving amateur rider Conor Shoemark his second winner under Rules.
The six-year-old went through the Ascot sales ring last July and was bought for just £400.
Tork said: "We always buy cheap horses and manage to win with them.
"With the cheap horses it is harder work to get them to win a race and we enjoy it very much."
Virginia Ash (7/2) claimed the Follow At Timeform1948 On Twitter Handicap Hurdle for Colin and Joe Tizzard, battling gamely to get the better of favourite Tidal Dance by a neck.
Joe Tizzard said: "He's done well and he's dug deep. It's the first time he's finished his race and it was a good little performance.
"He's one of those that's taken a little while to learn about it, but he's jumped super today."
Quartz Du Montceau (9/4) was a five-length winner of the three-and-a-quarter-mile Mixed Marriage Handicap Chase, while David Pipe's 1/5 favourite Too Generous scraped home by a head in the British Stallion Studs Supporting British Racing EBF Mares' 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle.
Gerald Tumelty and colourfully-named 33/1 shot Goochypoochyprader jumped and galloped their rivals silly in the concluding Don And Trev Eelfads Handicap Hurdle.