The cream is rising to the top at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador, Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba and Kevin Koe of Alberta kept within striking distance of unbeaten Glenn Howard of Ontario by improving their records to 4-1 at the Metro Centre yesterday.

All four were considered pre-Brier favourites.

“I don’t think that’s a big surprise, that’s what most people thought coming in,” Koe said. “I think it will be like that for the rest of the week, though there are a couple of (other) solid teams … B.C., Northern Ontario … So you’ve got to keep goin’.”

Gushue bounced back from a Sunday loss to Koe and won two, topping P.E.I.’s Rod MacDonald 7-3 last night and Nova Scotia’s Ian Fitzner-LeBlanc 10-3 in the morning.

“It’s still early and a lot of (the top teams) haven’t played each other yet,” Gushue said. “There’s still a long way to go and we have a lot of tough games ahead of us.”

Koe, who lost 7-5 to British Columbia’s Jeff Richard in a close morning contest, put three on the board in the sixth and eighth ends to blow open another tight one last night in a 9-5 victory over Saskatchewan’s Darrell McKee.

Stoughton, who won the Brier in 1995, beat Quebec’s Serge Reid 6-3 in his only game of the day yesterday.