Cue Card bounced out of his third Betfair Chase win in fine form, according to trainer Colin Tizzard.
He may turn 11 in a few weeks, but the star chaser showed his Wetherby defeat on his reappearance was a rare below-par run after he cruised to victory over 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree.
Having come so close to landing the £1million bonus for winning jumps racing’s Triple Crown last season when falling at Cheltenham, the dream is alive once more with the first leg in the bag.
Cue Card will now attempt to defend his crown in the 32Red King George VI Chase, for which he is 7-4 favourite with the sponsors, at Kempton on Boxing Day.
“He’s absolutely fine,” said Tizzard.
“I’ve watched it (the Betfair Chase) back a couple of times, and it was never really in any doubt.
“It’s amazing how he handles that ground now. Three years ago we might not have even run him on it.
“We always thought he wanted nice ground but he won his first Betfair on very soft ground and he’s loved it ever since.
“It’s strange. He just seems to float on it because he’s not a horse with a knee action at all.
“Paddy (Brennan) was very good on him and said he was never even thinking he would not win.
“The races pick themselves for him. Even without the bonus we knew where he’d be going at the start of the season.”
Come March, Tizzard could be in the strange situation of saddling the Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack, while gunning for the bonus with Cue Card in the same race.
Asked what it would feel like to potentially have the first two in the betting for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, Tizzard said: “It would be lovely.”