Super Solwhit in sparkling show
World Hurdle hero Solwhit turned in another superb display in the hands of Paul Carberry to claim the John Smith's Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree.
Charles Byrnes' talented but fragile nine-year-old (9-4 favourite) was always travelling well in the middle of the pack and was still cruising in behind the leaders at the top of the home straight, but Carberry was keen to bide his time.
The ultra-confident jockey was looking round for dangers between the final two flights and Solwhit sealed victory with a spring-heeled leap at the last. He kicked on up the run-in to score by three lengths from Holywell, with Smad Place back in third.
Carberry said: "He was absolutely brilliant today. He travelled great the whole way and jumped absolutely brilliant. I'd say he's nearly twice the horse today he was at Cheltenham."
The jockey was having his first ride since suffering a heavy fall at Fairyhouse on Tuesday and admitted he was unsure earlier in the week whether he would make it to the Grand National meeting at all. He said: "Wednesday morning I thought I wouldn't, but on Thursday I felt better and thankfully I've progressed well."
Byrnes said: "I thought he did it very well at Cheltenham, so I was confident today, even though there were a couple of other horses thrown in.
"The only problem with going to Punchestown is that the gap is quite small, but the three-mile race is the only option he has and he'll probably go if he's OK. He was going to go over fences at one stage, but at his age, I don't think we'll go that way."
Solwhit is 7-1 from 10-1 with Paddy Power to win next year's World Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he could meet four-time winner Big Buck's, currently sidelined by injury. Byrnes added: "He'd have to be very good to beat Big Buck's, who is trained by a genius (Paul Nicholls), but you should never be scared of one horse."
Holywell could meet Solwhit again in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle at Punchestown.
His trainer Jonjo O'Neill said: "The winner won easily, the others may have run below par, but he's run a good race and we're very happy with him. If the ground is soft we'll go to Punchestown with him and after that we'll leave him off. He's in the Stayers' Hurdle but so is Solwhit, that's the bad news."