Early in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, leading trainer Jack Fisher stood on the hillside and watched Schoodic, Syros and Scorpiancer in the novice stakes. Asked how it was going, Fisher, as always, was curt in his appraisal.
"Good," Fisher said.
Syros led, Schoodic stalked and Scorpiancer lagged.
Then Scorpiancer pounced, rallying from last, sweeping past the field to win by 3 lengths over Jack Frost and Schoodic.
"He's good, Jack," a friend said as Fisher walked down the hill.
Again, Fisher was curt.
"Yeah," he said.
Owned by Bruton Street-US, the 6-year-old Irish-bred made it a quick 2-for-2 in his American career and continued to erase a dismal 1-for-5 hurdle mark in England.
"I don't know what was wrong with him, he didn't look well when he got here," Fisher said of the £200,000 purchase . "I haven't done anything, put a tongue tie on him, that's about all."
Scorpiancer trounced rivals in a ratings hurdle at Shawan Downs and toyed with eight novices at Far Hills. Ridden by Connor Hankin, Scorpiancer rolled past horses while traveling at least six side going down the backside, continued to swoop into contention on the turn, popped the last and won with a fist pump from his amateur jockey.
"I'm really surprised, looking at his form from over there. We didn't know what the problem was and we still don't know why he ran so poorly over there, we've looked," Fisher said. "He trained fine but they said he pulled up lame in his last start, we never saw that. The point of running him at Suffolk was to see how he came back."
Scorpiancer finished last of three in his final start in England in April and made his American debut in a training flat at Suffolk Sept. 5. That went well enough to try a ratings hurdle at Shawan Downs, which led to the novice stakes at Far Hills.
Scorpiancer provided Hankin with his first hurdle win at Shawan and his second at Far Hills. The apprentice didn't want to change anything.
"I thought I'd do the same thing as Shawan, sort of break him last and get his jumping going, then see if I could pick up horses. I swung him out so he had a bit of room and he was just jumping his way into it, that's what got him going down the backside the last time, I had a bit of traffic a few times, it could have been experience, maybe sticking my head where I shouldn't, but once I picked up Ross (Geraghty on Jack Frost), he was never going to not do it."
Hankin's father, Michael, and Charlie Noell own Bruton Street-US. They discussed the horse with Connor before making the move to try a new continent.
"Believe it or not, I was in the camp of 'maybe, cut your losses.' Who knew? He was very disappointing, he struggled to break his maiden, he won at Ludlow in the middle of the winter," Hankin said. "The more I look at that and the more I look at the way he goes here, he kind of floats over the ground, he just couldn't get through the ground over there. It was my dad and Charlie Noell, who thought they'd try it. After Shawan, he paid back his flight and here, he paid back a little more. He's a really cool horse."
At the end of the conversation, Hankin summed up his tactics on Scorpiancer and hinted at his tactics for The Nephew in the Appleton.
"I just thought, 'This horse particularly, don't go too soon,' " Hankin said. "The Nephew is different, he's more one-paced, you can let him stride on and maybe that's a better game plan. We'll see."
The Nephew strode on to a comfortable win in the ratings handicap, cruising to a 2 ½ length win over Hiwasse Gem and Plated. Imported from Britain this year, the 7-year-old went winless in 10 hurdle starts but won five chases from 14 tries while trained by Jonjo O'Neill.
Fisher was impressed.
"I've always liked him, he's a fabulous mover, just a nice horse. He didn't have any form and I thought he came out with a good rating. The initial plan was to be a timber horse, but we couldn't get him schooled over timber in time," Fisher said. "I thought about going to Belmont and then the Grand National. I think we might run him in the (Colonial) Cup, I think his jumping will improve from Far Hills."