David Bridgwater reckons there is plenty more to come from Fergal Mael Duin after he shrugged off his maiden tag at Fontwell.
The seven-year-old son of Tikkanen had finished second five times and third on a further five occasions prior to yesterday’s meeting held under gloomy skies in West Sussex.
But the 8/11 favourite hit the mark at the 14th time of asking in the Society Of St James Handicap Chase under the track’s top jockey Tom Cannon.
Bridgwater, who trains in Gloucestershire, said: ‘I am absolutely gobsmacked why he hasn’t done it before.
‘It was a nice opportunity and he should win again.
‘It was probably the wrong track for him, the wrong distance, everything was wrong, the ground was wrong.
‘But he is a good horse.
‘Three miles on better ground with suit him, perhaps.
‘Tom Scudamore will tell you he’ll be better with him on as well!
‘But it is great for the owners.
‘He is a home-bred horse and they have been very patient.
‘He has run some cracking races and been second and third God knows how many times.
‘So it is brilliant to get a first win.’
The meeting began with an impressive victory for Bigmartre in the ABP Southampton Gateway To World Novices’ Hurdle.
Harry Whittington’s French recruit, who had struggling with his jumping across the Channel, defeated favourite Board Of Trade by five lengths under Gavin Sheehan.
The jockey said: ‘We went a nice, steady gallop.
‘He probably won because he got an easy lead and he already had a little experience.
‘But we were confident enough coming to Fontwell.’
Whittington added: ‘He was a little bit guessy in France.
‘He wasn’t be best jumper if you watch his races.
‘Chris King has done plenty of poles work with him to get him using his feet properly and making a nice shape over his jumps.
‘His schooling has really improved since then.’
The headline act at the meeting was the arrival of 2014 JCB Triumph Hurdle third Calipto.
Paul Nicholls’ talent was making his chase debut in the Southampton Makes More Sense Beginners’ Chase and he won in ready fashion at 8/15.
Sam Twiston-Davies, who rode the five-year-old son of Califet, said: ‘I’ve had a lot of fun with him without ever winning, so it was great to get off the mark.
‘It was nice, especially with the high expectations beforehand.’
Calipto has since been quoted as 33/1 for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Drum Valley could be aimed at the Pertemps after his superb success in the Solent Stevedores Handicap Hurdle at 5/1.
Jockey Ben Ffrench Davis heaped praise on trainer Oliver Sherwood following the victory, which marked his charge’s return to the track following an injury last December.
He said: ‘He had a soft lead, which he enjoyed.
‘He wasn’t actually doing a lot of work in front until we turned the revs up.
‘He started jumping a lot better then.
‘It was a very good training performance again by the boss.
‘He is almost a magician with things like that.’
Jeremy Scott hailed the ride of Matt Griffiths after Dainty Diva cruised to a 3/1 triumph in the ABP Keeping Britain Trading Conditional Jockeys’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
The Somerset trainer said: ‘I was a bit worried when the rain came.
‘I never thought she would see it out too well.
‘I wished we were nearer two miles than two miles and three furlongs.
‘But actually, Matt has given her a really good ride.
‘He has gone out quite wide to find some better ground.
‘So it was a very intelligent ride by Matt.’
Wednesday’s meeting concluded with the traditional bumper, which was won by Late Night Lily at 7/1.
Jockey Harry Skelton, who was riding for his trainer brother Dan, said: ‘We think quite a bit of her but I would be lying if I said we came here expecting that.
‘She has obviously improved plenty.’