JASON MAGUIRE sealed his 100th winner of the season at Doncaster as he continues to lead the pack in vain pursuit of the untouchable Tony McCoy.
It was only last year that the Irishman assumed the mantle from 14-time runner-up Richard Johnson, with whom he is closely matched again, but they are already more than 60 adrift of the perennial leader.
The century came aboard Diamond King, who appears one of the smarter prospects for Maguire's boss Donald McCain as many of his best-known jumpers have not been seen this winter.
While 2-5 favourite Diamond King won the Download The All New freebets.co.uk "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle with acute ease, his trainer was hesitant about the likelihood of the Diana Whateley-owned gelding being aimed for the Cheltenham Festival.
A three-and-three-quarter-length success, though, was an improvement upon Bangor last month, where he lost his unbeaten record by stumbling through the final flight.
"It's great to do it for Donald, and if you'd said to me at the start of the season I'd get 100 by January, I'd take it," said Maguire, achieving the mark for the fourth time.
McCain said: "I'm pleased for Jason, he's a huge asset to the yard as well as being a mate.
"We think the world of him (Diamond King). He stepped into the last at Bangor and I don't know how he stayed up.
"I came here for better ground and I'd like to see him over two and a half miles in a better race now."
Asked about Cheltenham, McCain said: "He's a young horse and he's going to be a chaser, so we'll have to see."
A mild afternoon with the promise of good to soft ground drew runners from across the country, with David Pipe's Western Warhorse justifying the journey from Devon.
Western Warhorse (2-1) has had a patchy career over hurdles and had to be withdrawn from Kempton on Boxing Day after bolting at the start, but he could prove far better over fences judged by the Check Out The All New freebets.co.uk Novices' Chase.
Sent off in front by Tom Scudamore, Western Warhorse jumped confidently but only just got home over the two and a half miles, with Victor Hewgo closing to a neck.
"He's a bit of a fruit-loop, but he's a fruit-loop that does jump and gallop," said Scudamore.
"He is what he is, really, but his jumping has won it. Maybe the second horse is a good one, we'll find out in time.
"He won an Irish point-to-point so we always thought he'd stay three miles, but he hadn't got home over three miles so far over hurdles."
James Evans brought about a change of fortunes for Softsong in division one of the 1stsecuritysolutions.co.uk Maiden Hurdle.
Carrying the familiar blue and white colours of Andrew Cohen, the 5-1 chance drew a blank in two seasons with Philip Hobbs but ultimately wound out a very impressive 10-length winner.