Silver Hallmark demonstrated why trainer Fergal O'Brien was keen to secure him at the sales with an impressive victory in the Longcroft Building Services Supports Racing Welfare “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle at Chepstow.
After finishing third at Newbury behind subsequent Aintree bumper winner McFabulous on his sole start last season, the five-yea-old gelding turned the tables on his Paul Nicholls-trained rival with an impressive four-length success in the two-mile contest.
O’Brien said: “We saw him at the sales last year. Mr and Mrs Rucker couldn’t be there, but I was on the phone and he was the one we all really liked and I was lucky to be able to bid away.
“He was third on his one bumper run behind McFabulous at Newbury and Paddy (Brennan) gave him a lovely introductory ride. He had a great summer at home with the Ruckers and he came back in looking amazing.
“I will speak to Mr and Mrs Rucker and they might not want to pitch as high as the Challow. We will just enjoy today, but he is a super horse.”
Victory for Silver Hallmark was also a 100th win under rules for owners Angela and William Rucker.
Reflecting on the achievement, the former said: “My husband counts all the winners, so he was very excited about it.
“I think State Of Play winning the Hennessy was amazing. He was our first really good horse and he is still with us now at home at the age of 19.”
Tom Scudamore enjoyed a change of fortune 24 hours after being dragged from underneath two horses in the finale at Exeter with a four-length verdict on Kepagge in the concluding NAF Supports Racing Welfare Standard National Hunt Flat Race.
He said: “What Sam Twiston-Davies did at Exeter was absolutely brilliant as I was stuck underneath the two horses. He probably saved me a kicking, so I owe him a pint!”
Of the 5-1 winner, he added: “He has done that nicely from the front and I was really pleased with him. We’ve some very nice bumper horses and he would be one of them.”
Simply The Betts proved a cut above his rivals on his first start in almost a year when running out a decisive four-and-a-half-length winner on his debut over fences in the “Mick Finn” A Lifetime in Racing Chase.
Trainer Harry Whittington said of the 5-1 winner: “He ran in a Supreme and didn’t disgrace himself in that, and before that he was beaten by Lostintranslation on his first hurdles run, so the form was there.
“His last two runs were just disappointing. He had a couple of niggles that needed sorting, but he has had a year off and that has done him the world of good.
“Today was about getting him back on track and we thought he would be a better chaser, so we are thrilled with that.”
Perfect Man (10-1) showed an abundance of stamina to prevail by a length and a quarter in the Longcroft Building Services Supports Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle in silks that will always evoke fond memories for winning trainer Olly Murphy.
Murphy, speaking away from the track, said: “He never really got his conditions last year, but he obviously goes well fresh. I think a Pertemps qualifier on a stiff track would suit him.