Sprinter Sacre turned in a scintillating performance to pummel his rivals in the Racing Post Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.
The 8-11 favourite had barely come off the bridle in his first three starts over fences and there was an inevitability about the result when he jumped to the front leaving the back straight.
From that point on Barry Geraghty gave Nicky Henderson’s giant gelding his head and he put daylight between himself and his rivals running down the hill.
To his credit, Cue Card came from out of the pack to throw down a challenge between the final two fences.
But Sprinter Sacre was dossing in front and he only had to be pushed out after another excellent leap at the last to come home with seven lengths in hand.
Geraghty, who has been associated with great chasers such as Moscow Flyer and Kicking King, had warned in the buildup to the Festival that Sprinter Sacre was the best horse he had ever ridden and it was easy to see why.
Al Ferof was sent off his main market rival having beaten Sprinter Sacre in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but he took off way too early at the ditch down the back straight and was never going to get back into it afterwards.
Sprinter Sacre was simply in a league of his own, but Cue Card did run an excellent race to beat the rest of his rivals easily, with Menorah in third.
Geraghty said: “He’s unbelievable, he has so much pace and scope – I’m not sure I’ve had the privilege to ride anything like that.
“As long as he stays in one piece, that’s the main thing. Moscow Flyer would always doss and might just beat an average horse a couple of lengths. The way he jumped the third-last he gives you some feel.
“He knew what he was doing at the third-last. If anything he was guilty of over-jumping it. He wasn’t as fresh as last time. There was seven weeks from Kempton to Newbury. The boss had him in good shape today.”
Alfie Sherrin claimed the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase for Jonjo O’Neill. The 14-1 chance had shown precious little in his four previous starts this season, but switched back to fences on a sounder surface, he turned in a much improved display.
The strongly-supported The Package travelled into the race smoothly coming down the hill on his first start in well over a year, as did the grey Our Mick.
Fruity O’Rooney put up a bold bid from the head of affairs, but Alfie Sherrin found plenty for pressure after jumping the final fence to win the argument by a length under Richie McLernon.
Our Mick was four lengths further back in third, with The Package fourth.
Sent off at 10-1 following a victory at Aintree and two wins at Haydock, the five-year-old travelled strongly throughout in the hands of Jason Maguire, but a poor leap down the back straight threatened to ruin his chance.
However, Maguire stayed cool and after cruising into the home straight, another error at the last was not enough to stop him winning by a length and a quarter from Darlan.
Leading fancy Darlan was one of the first to commit for home, while one of the Irish raiders, Trifolium, was another right there rounding the home turn. But Cinders And Ashes quickened to the lead soon after and despite flattening the final flight, he was good value for his victory, in the process earning a 16-1 quote from Paddy Power for next year’s Champion Hurdle.