Silviniaco Conti graduated to full company in style as he ran out a wide-margin winner of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase.
A Grade Two novice winner at Aintree at the end of last term, the Paul Nicholls-trained runner was sent off the 11-10 favourite against five more experienced rivals and Ruby Walsh gave him plenty of time to find his feet.
Planet of Sound and Midnight Chase raced prominently throughout in the Grade Two heat but the latter was the first to cry enough as the pace turned up a notch.
Wayward Prince came through on the outside travelling noticeably well as Planet Of Sound also began to toil and Time For Rupert tried to go with him. However, Walsh was making stealthy progress aboard Silviniaco Conti and he delivered his challenge approaching the second last.
A slight peck on landing from Wayward Prince cost him precious momentum but Silviniaco Conti always looked the winner and he accelerated clear to claim an 11-length verdict.
Walsh said: “He jumped very well and travelled really well and he felt a bit stronger than he did last year.
“I’ve always really liked him and when he got beat by Grands Crus in the Feltham [last year], there was no disgrace in that. He’s got a huge future. I’m not saying he’s there yet, but he’s got the potential to go to the next level.”
Paddy Power now go 5-1 on Silviniaco Conti’s chances for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day while BetVictor are offering odds of 7-1.
Meanwhile, Kauto Stone made a successful seasonal bow as he landed the Grade One JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Trained by Nicholls and ridden by Daryl Jacob, Kauto Stone was sent off a 4-1 chance and was noted travelling smoothly some way out before challenging at the second last.
The front-running First Lieutenant made a battle of it, but he had no answer as Kauto Stone pulled away after the last.