Delta Work defended his Glenfarclas Chase title as Gordon Elliott won the Cheltenham Festival cross-country feature for the fifth time in seven years.
Last year Delta Work had to play the role of pantomime villain as he spoiled the retirement party of Tiger Roll by edging out the dual Grand National winner in a thriller.
But this time around he was the people’s favourite, with the 10-year-old was sent off the heavily-backed 11-10 market leader.
Kept in the perfect place throughout by Keith Donoghue, he edged his way to the lead shortly after jumping the Aintree fence for the final time.
Delta Work was soon joined at the head of proceedings by stablemate and 11-4 second-favourite Galvin and it was soon obvious the classy Elliott duo were the only ones with a real chance of taking home the first prize.
Matching strides approaching the last, Donoghue always looked to be holding on to that little bit more than Davy Russell aboard Galvin and so it proved in the closing stages as Delta Work came home with a two-and-a-half-length advantage.
Donoghue was picking up his fourth victory in the race having steered Tiger Roll to success in 2018, 19 and 21, while both the winner and runner-up will now head to Aintree for the Randox Grand National.
Betfair make Delta Work 14-1 from 20-1, while Galvin is 16-1 from 25s for success in Liverpool on April 15.
Elliott said: “I love the cross-country race. It was great to have the one-two and see Galvin run a great race because he will come on for it.
“I’m pleased for Keith who is having his best ever season, but Jack (Kennedy, injured stable jockey) is a team player and he’s here lending his support. Jack will be back on these horses when he’s passed fit to return.
“Both horses will now go for the Grand National.”
He added: “I hoped it would be Delta’s day, to be honest, but really I don’t care what wins as I just love having winners.”
Successful owner Michael O’Leary said: “He has been a great horse around Cheltenham. He won a Pertemps here one year and that is his second cross-country chase win and it is wonderful to have a winner around here. It is a great training performance by Gordon to win that race again.
“Every winner at the Festival is a big winner. It is so hard to win races here. Gordon and the team at Cullentra (House) are one of the top teams and we are privileged to have days like this and winners like Delta.
“I was devastated 12 months ago (after beating Tiger Roll) and I was like ‘kick him out’ (said tongue in cheek), but now I’m very grateful. I thought Galvin was going easier and Davy was tracking us the whole way. Galvin is a very good horse and he is owned by Ronnie Bartlett, who is a very good friend of mine, and if it wasn’t going to be won by us I would have liked to have seen Ronnie win it as at least it was going to stay at Gordon’s.
“I used to be the most critical of this cros-country race and why do we bother. When you are struggling for a winner at Cheltenham I will take the cross-country, the Martin Pipe, anything at all. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but a winner at the Festival is a winner.
“Some horses take to it and some don’t. Tiger took to it and Delta has taken to it well again. It (the National) will be on the agenda, but I have won the Grand National three times already and no owner I think has won it more than three times so I’ve had my fill.
“He will go to Aintree, but will he win, no he won’t.”