Shutthefrontdoor, with AP McCoy on board, staked a big claim to be in owner JP McManus' Cheltenham Festival team thanks to a gutsy victory in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at Carlisle.
The six-year-old, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, gave Ulsterman McCoy his first winner back in the McManus colours after riding the ill-fated Darlan at Doncaster on Monday.
The 17-times champion had to be at his best to get Shutthefrontdoor (9-2) to outpoint Ardkilly Witness by half a length and complete a hat-trick.
The first two drew nine lengths clear of the remainder.
Shutthefrontdoor, who has had just the four runs over jumps, has several Cheltenham options, including the Pertemps Final, the Coral Cup and the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
Christopher Ward, the 7lb claimer aboard runner-up Ardkilly Witness, was banned for two days (February 20-21) for using his whip above the permitted level.
Eduard (1-8 favourite), another Cheltenham possible, had little more than an exercise canter as he trotted up in the Carlisle Racecourse Novices Hurdle.
A creditable third to Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham in December, the Nicky Richards-trained five-year-old had no trouble registering his second win over hurdles.
Once Davy Russell took him to the front, Eduard put plenty of daylight between himself and his rivals to coast home by 29 lengths to give Ireland's champion jockey a facile success on his only ride of the day.
Eduard was handed quotes of |40-1 for both the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the Festival.
“He's a lovely horse and I'd say his future is over fences,” Russell said.
“He's a big, honest horse and relaxed from flag-fall — he was very professional the way he went about his job.
“I'd say he'd go for the staying novice as the Supreme might be too sharp for him. That would be up to Nicky, but he definitely wouldn't disgrace himself.”
Kealigolane (11-2) saw off the even-money favourite Vulcanite when making all of the running in the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Novices Chase.
The Barry Murtagh-trained grey enjoyed himself in front in the hands of James Reveley and shrugged off the attentions of Vulcanite to score by three and three-quarter lengths.
“He's a cracking little horse when he's on song,” said Murtagh.
“The handicapper would have a big say in future plans.”
Reveley completed a 109-1 double on Markadam (16-1).