Taquin Du Seuil will have a crack at the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival after Tony McCoy's energetic ride helped secure a surprise victory over Oscar Whisky.
McCoy finally threw down a challenge over the final two fences in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices Chase in Cheltenham's Open Meeting yesterday.
"You've got to do what you think is right," said McCoy, on leaving hot 4-6 favourite Oscar Whisky in the lead up to that point.
"He was very idle half way up the run-in when I got by him. It wasn't a nice race to ride in but it was a nice result.
"I thought he'd quicken up more than he did, to be honest, but he was maybe a bit ring-rusty and it was only up the hill when he got going.
"It's nice performance from this horse, giving 5lb away," added the 39-year-old Ulsterman, who smashed through the 4,000 winner milestone last week.
Oscar Whisky's trainer Nicky Henderson was not disappointed.
"He has run fantastic but the last thing we wanted was for him to do it on his own," said the champion handler.
"At the first he slipped and the horse on his inner took him out. After that he jumped great and there's plenty of improvement to come. He's done nothing wrong," he added.
McCoy will ride Lucinda Russell's Tap Night in today's feature Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
Jonjo O'Neill, so often in partnership with McCoy, had his only previous triumph in the race through one of the best horses he ever trained, but his charge Johns Spirit will need to stay out of trouble if he is to follow in the footprints of Exotic Dancer.
"He's grand but the problem for him is this is a hard race, and a different sort of race for him," said O'Neill.
"It's a big field and the way he has to be ridden, he'll need a lot of luck. But he's in good form and we're hoping for the best."
Meanwhile, Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly faces little more than a glorified piece of work in his bid to claim sole ownership of the record for career Grade Ones – Kauto Star is also on 16 – under Ruby Walsh in tomorrow's Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
After Jessica Harrington's 11th-hour decision to wait for next month's Hatton's Grace Hurdle with the exciting Jezki – winner of the WKD Hurdle under McCoy at the Down Royal Festival two weeks ago – the €80,000 two-miler lost any hope of redemption as a meaningful top-level affair.
Hurricane Fly, owned by George Creighton and Rose Boyd, will go for a third Champion Hurdle triumph at the Cheltenham Festival in March.