Valdez heading in the right direction
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.