TIKKANBAR took another step forward after registering a battling success in the Listed Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The Neil Mulholland-trained seven-year-old followed up a winning debut over hurdles at Plumpton in November when he made virtually all of the running to gamely defeat Ainchea by a length and a quarter.

Mulholland said of the 3-1 favourite: "He stays and gallops and loves the ground.

"He might jump better on better ground and he doesn't have to make the running, either, but it's working at the moment.

"He has done very little wrong and obviously this was to see if he was good enough to handle these horses. He did very well."

Vyta Du Roc responded well to first-time cheekpieces with a near-foot-perfect round of jumping in the Watch Live Racing On BetBright.com Handicap Chase.

The Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old gained his first win since landing the Reynoldstown at Ascot in February 2016 after he galloped his rivals into submission to claim a 22-length verdict.

Henderson said of the 15-8 favourite: "We decided to make it (the running) as nobody else was going to.

"He thoroughly enjoyed it and jumped beautifully. They (cheekpieces) certainly sharpened his jumping up.

"If they throw him up in the weights enough he might go to the National and that is probably where he will finish off.

"We will see what happens. He has won a good race and that is a good start for the team.

"He has been hard to place and the last race he won was the Reynoldstown, but he has been knocking on the door in some very good races."

Ballyhill (9-1) made the most of a light weight to claim victory in the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained gelding crept in at the bottom of the nine-strong field with just 10st 5lb on his back, while conditional jockey Jamie Bargary claimed a further 3lb.

Bargary was happy to play the waiting game in the testing ground and settled Ballyhill towards the rear of the field for much of the race.

He made his move down the back straight and was in front rounding the home turn and while last year's winner Shantou Flyer finished strongly, Ballyhill saw him off by a length and three-quarters.

Sametegal beat Top Gamble to third place.

Twiston-Davies said: "It was a long way out when he fell at Aintree last time, but we thought he was going well there and that's proved that he was.

"He doesn't mind the ground. He has pulled out plenty there so it's happy days.

"We will look a race here on Trials Day and then we will work out what we go for at the Festival after that."

Boyhood came of age in the two-mile handicap hurdle for the Tom George operation.

Paddy Brennan's companion had to work hard to subdue the prolonged challenge of Red Rising, but the 11-2 chance eventually got the job done by seven lengths.

George said: "He is a babyish horse but he hangs a bit.

"He was left and right and didn't know which way to hang. He was on and off the bridle.

"He has taken a long time to learn what to do but every time he runs I think he is going to learn a bit more.

"The track probably suited him."

Acey Milan led his rivals a merry dance in the concluding EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club.

Trained by the in-form Anthony Honeyball, the recent Wincanton scorer was a 3-1 shot to follow in this Listed contest and did so in some style, dominating from the front on his way to a three-and-three-quarter-length success under Aidan Coleman.

Malinas Jack was a clear second.

Honeyball said: "He is a really straightforward horse.

"He surprised me how much he came forward from the first bumper to the second bumper. We felt he came on a huge amount for that.

"He is not a big horse that needs a lot of time.

"I think we will go to Newbury for the Listed bumper against the older horses and either put him away or if he wins that it is a month before the Champion Bumper back here in March."