Smad Place produced a fine display from the front to win the £200,000 Hennessy showpiece at Newbury Saturday afternoon.
The beautiful grey exploded into action from the start with some sublime jumping, clearing each fence in exuberant style.
Jockey Wayne Hutchinson was keen to make it a test of stamina from the front and that was maintained throughout the gruelling 3m2f trip.
The Alan King-trained eight-year-old ran on after the last to win at odds of 7-1.
Hutchinson was delighted with the performance, he said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to bits. He was fab and it’s all come together this year. The boss was hard on himself coming here without a run last year and he knew what he was doing.
“He loved it out in the front at Kempton in his last race and I asked the boss if I can just do the same. He didn’t miss a beat and the team is in good order.”
The performance has clearly been noted with bookmakers, who have slashed the odds from 33-1 to 10-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
This season chasers look extremely talented and although the King George next month will provide a better picture, the Gold Cup in March as the potential to be phenomenal.
Cue Card, Coneygree, Don Cossack have all put in memorable performances so far and if you add Smad Place and Vautour to that group a fantastic showpiece awaits.
This weekend will see some top class action from Sandown and Aintree.
The Becher Chase 1.40pm at Aintree is a difficult puzzle to solve with plenty of possibilities at the top of the market.
Saint Aire, trained by Tom George is the pick of my fancies. He has plenty of decent form to his name and seems to like going round Aintree with a notable second in last year’s Grand National to his name.
The Grand Sefton Handicap chase on the same card at 3.20pm is another typical minefield for punters.
Willie Mullin’s horses have not been firing as we all expect recently, but I don’t think that should put you off Valseur Lido, this six-year-old has the potential to become special.
The big race at Sandown is the Tingle Creek.
Un De Sceaux will clearly go off a short priced favourite and that is deserved, but Vibrato Valtat could well catch him fresh and with trainer Paul Nicholls in fine form, 4-1 is an attractive price.
Wally’s Tips: Aintree 1.40 Saint Aire 12-1; 3.20 Valseur Lido 10-1; Sandown (Tingle Creek) Vibrato Valtat 4-1.