Politologue staked his Queen Mother Champion Chase claims as he presented Paul Nicholls with his 10th win in the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown.
The six-year-old finished fourth in the JLT Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last season before slipping up at the last with a Grade One seemingly in the bag at Aintree, but he righted that record here.
Politologue showed the benefit of his Haldon Gold Cup win at Exeter last month as he travelled strongly for Harry Cobden before fending off the late challenge of 8-13 favourite Fox Norton by half a length at the line.
Nicholls, who has saddled the likes of Kauto Star, Master Minded and Twist Magic to victory in this two-mile race, has no doubt all roads now lead to the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Nicholls said: “He is starting to look the proper job. I knew when he went to Exeter there would be huge improvement.
“No one ever believes you when you say they need a run, but he hadn’t been back long enough really.
“I knew they would go quick and his jumping stands him in great stead. Harry said he just cruises there and ends up idling in front. The faster they go, the more he can get a tow into the race.
“John [Hales, owner] has always wanted him to be a Gold Cup horse. I just thought at Haydock last season and at Cheltenham we were riding him wrong and doing the wrong thing.
“That’s why I said we will go to back to two at Aintree and we were unlucky that day.
“I suspect we will go to Ascot [for the Clarence House Chase] now at the end of January then on to Cheltenham.”
Colin Tizzard felt a couple of scruffy jumps had proved pivotal for Fox Norton and jockey Robbie Power.
He: “As Robbie said, he missed the first a bit and was just chasing them and we never got there – it was as simple as that. I would say we will be stepping up in trip now. We’ve always been talking about doing it.
“Whether he is a Ryanair horse or a King George horse, that is not to think about at this minute as I don’t know. He ran on and at two out, you thought he was still going to have a pretty good chance.
“I am sure if the race was run again and he pinged the first he would have been right up there. There were no excuses, he was beaten by a better horse on the day.”
Sceau Royal caused a minor surprise in a high-class renewal of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.
Beaten by North Hill Harvey at Cheltenham earlier in the season, he turned the tables on Dan Skelton’s runner and some other promising youngsters.
Brain Power was the one to aim at as they raced towards the Pond Fence, but Daryl Jacob was sitting motionless on his outside.
As they raced towards the last, Sceau Royal (11-1) had just taken up the running when David Mullins was unseated from Brain Power.
That left Alan King’s five-year-old to come home alone, beating North Hill Harvey by 11 lengths.
The major disappointment of the race was Finian’s Oscar, who was last of three finishers.
Jacob said: “This lad was awesome today, he pinged his fences.
“I got there too soon and had to take a pull, he loved it.
“We’ve done the same with this lad as we did with Top Notch, we’ve brought him along slowly, and it’s paying off.”
Blaklion justified his skinny odds as he strolled to victory in the Becher Chase at Aintree.
Second to stablemate Bristol De Mai on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, Blaklion was sent off a heavily supported 7-4 favourite and he never looked in any danger.
Last year’s Grand National fourth did not put a foot wrong under Gavin Sheehan and he was cut across the board for the April showpiece by the bookmakers after he bolted up by nine lengths for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
Aintree regulars The Last Samuri and Highland Lodge once again showed their affection for the fences but were ultimately well beaten in second and third respectively.
Definitly Red made nearly every yard of the running to win the Many Clouds Chase.
Brian Ellison’s strong stayer was sent off the 9-4 joint-favourite along with Cloudy Dream and they had it to themselves from some way out.
While Malcolm Jefferson's grey, who runs in the Trevor Hemmings colours of Many Clouds, travelled supremely strongly for most of the race, he was found wanting at the finish as he tried three miles for the first time in heavy ground
Danny Cook asked Definitly Red for several big leaps on the way round and his mount kept on responding and after seeing off Cloudy Dream from two out, came home unchallenged.
Grand National fifth Gas Line Boy made light of a drop in trip as he claimed the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.
Trainer Ian Williams made the bold decision to to go for the two-mile-five-furlong event rather than the longer Becher Chase earlier in the day and he was duly rewarded.
The testing conditions played to the strengths of Gas Line Boy, but you still need plenty of things to go your way over the National fences and when Arctic Gold fell in front of him, he needed to be nimble to avoid him.
Robbie Dunne always looked to have everything else covered though and he kicked clear after the last, with the 9-2 favourite having enough up his sleeve to hold off Ultragold, winner of the Topham Chase, by four and a half lengths.
Sametegal kept on to finish a further two and a half lengths back in third.