Eldorado Allen downed Hitman to come out on top in the closing stages of the Betway Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.
Second in the Arkle to Shishkin last season, the seven-year-old was sent off a 9-2 chance to make a winning return to action for a Colin Tizzard stable that continues to prove it is well and truly over the ailments of last season.
He looked booked for minor honours at best once again though, as Harry Cobden cruised into the lead on the Paul Nicholls-trained Hitman.
Also making his reappearance and having his first outing since a wind operation, the five-year-old looked sure to collect, jumping clear at the third-last.
With last year’s winner Greaneteen dropping away after threatening briefly, Eldorado Allen then emerged as the only threat to Hitman.
A big leap at the last seemed to have done enough for Hitman as he went over a length clear, but as the 11-10 favourite began to tire and lean towards the rail, Brendan Powell pulled the grey out for one last lunge and it was enough to beat the 11-10 favourite by a length.
The winner was given a 40-1 quote by Betfair for the Ryanair Chase, but Coral were more impressed and went 25-1 for the same race.
Tizzard and Powell had teamed up to win Sunday’s Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle with Fiddlerontheroof, and assistant trainer Joe Tizzard was delighted to keep the momentum going.
He said: “He didn’t travel all that well early on and Brendan said he was virtually flat out.
“It turned into a proper slog. It was good on the horse that he stuck his head out really well and has proved he will get a bit further now. We thought going to Aintree over two and a half miles last season would have been ideal, but he just ran a bit flat.
“He was second in an Arkle and off 151 you had to fancy him. He beat the right horse in my opinion. I think the right two fought it out so it was a solid performance.
“They were needing their runs the first half of October, but they have just started to hit their straps now and it proves they are in rude health with themselves.
“To go and win with Fiddlerontheroof and this one now is just what the yard needed. It puts it all to rest a little from what has been going on over the last 12 months.
“It is nice for us and good for the owners who have supported us all the way through. However well they run it is all about winners and we have got in the habit of having big winners and that is how we want to continue.”
On plans, Tizzard added: “We will probably be looking at going a bit further now. He has won over hurdles and first time out over fences last year so he does go well fresh. We’ve not really got any plans so we will have to plot a path.
“Quite possibly the Peterborough Chase could be a race we look at as he has put himself in that sort of bracket. He could be a Ryanair horse as we get further down the line.”
As for Hitman and Greaneteen, Nicholls said: “Hitman has just got to stick his head down and gallop to the line, but that will come with experience. Every time he has won, he has won hard on the bridle.
“He has never had to get in a battle with those battle-hardened horses and stick his head down to the line, but that will come. He has a lot of potential. I hate getting beat, but I’m thrilled he ran so well.
“Greaneteen did exactly what I thought he would do and blew up, but we will now get him tuned up for the Tingle Creek. That was his prep for that today and I’ve left loads to work on and that will take the freshness out of him.
“I will not be afraid to go to the Tingle Creek with Hitman as you are a bit in no man’s land. He is rated 151 and he might as well go in those better races than in a handicap. You want to run him in those better races as somewhere along the line he will pick one up.”