Coneygree enjoyed a trouble-free reappearance with a decisive win in the Listed 188Bet Future Stars Chase at Sandown.
Last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner only faced two rivals in the three-mile contest after Puffin Billy was declared a non-runner and he was never challenged.
Jumping confidently in the main, Nico de Boinville brought Coneygree home 25 lengths clear of Seventh Sky, while last season’s RSA Chase runner-up Southfield Theatre was 19 lengths further adrift in third.
With his unbeaten record over fences still intact, Mark Bradstock will now target the eight-year-old at the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, where he will have to carry top weight.
Bradstock said: “He’ll come on for it, sure. March is the time we want him at his very best.
“The Hennessy is the plan and we’ll go from there. We’ve got to give a bit of weight away, but we’ll give it a go as others have done it before.”
Meanwhile, trainer Gary Moore saddled a 1,529/1 treble on the card following his release from hospital.
Moore suffered a punctured lung, broken ribs and a bruised spleen after being kicked by a horse, but is now recovering at home.
His son Joshua partnered the first of the day’s winners as the outsider Ar Mad put his superior jumping skills to good use to make all the running to win the three-runner Beginners’ Chase by seven lengths from Golden Doyen.
Another son Jamie took over for the other two winners as Darebin won the Juvenile Hurdle on his second start over timber.
In the Veterans’ Handicap Chase over three miles, Vino Griego secured a first win in almost two years when beating 2014 Grand National winner Pineau De Re by five lengths.