That opposition was far weaker than Coonawara is bound to face at Cheltenham next month but Tim Forster, his trainer, rated the performance as the eight-year-old's best yet.
Forster has still to decide which race to aim for at the Festival. Sporting Index shortened Coonawara to 9-2 (from 5- 1) for the Arkle Chase behind 3-1 joint-favourites Atone and Current Express. But the trainer warned: 'He is no certainty to go for the Arkle. There is a strong possibility he will go for the Cathcart Chase instead. The going will be a big factor. He needs it soft and two miles five furlongs may suit him better.
'Today is the best he has jumped. He finds it hard to concentrate in front but he did that well today. This was his trickiest test and he passed it well. Not many win eight, even if they are round Newton Abbot,' Forster said.
The retirement of Celtic Shot, the former Champion Hurdler, looked likely yesterday after he was pulled up after the third last when returning to fences for the first time in three years at Sandown yesterday.Reuse content