Royale Pagaille shone brightest at his favourite track when upsetting Bravemansgame to land the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The nine-year-old was second in this race in 2021 and returned to the Gr1 contest at a price of 5-1 under Charlie Deutsch, having never been out of the first two in four previous trips to the Merseyside venue.
Dan Skelton’s Protektorat was occasionally erratic in his jumping and Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler, the reigning Grand National hero, found the race happening at too quick a pace.
It was left to Royale Pagaille and Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame, the 8-11 favourite, to share the lead in the battle for top honours.
And in the closing stages it was Venetia Williams’ charge who pushed on, jumping well over the final two fences to claim his biggest success to date by six and a half lengths. Corach Rambler was another nine lengths back in third.
Williams, who has her string in red-hot form, said: “Charlie got him into a great rhythm, but he said for the first circuit he was quite laid back and not really grabbing the bridle, it wasn’t until he pulled him out wide that he did.
“He jumped very well, but if you’d seen him school on Thursday you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s him, he shows very little at home and switches it on for the races.
“You’d have to say that’s a career best from him. All horses have their day and have their lesser days. If all the others were at the top of their game, then it might put a different light on it. The same applies to us on other days, on this day we were the best.
“Cheltenham is a unique course, you go up and down and round. Courses like this, dead flat, there shouldn’t be hard luck stories so you should have the best horse winning.”
She added: “I’m not saying he’s gone into any Gold Cup as favourite, but it’s a trappy course. It has to be, as it tests the best, just like the Derby at Epsom.
“He’s run in the last three Gold Cups, he should have only been in two but his owners Susannah and Rich (Ricci) had Monkfish who was red-hot favourite in the novice race and duly won.
“He has never had his ground at Cheltenham. Who knows, this year he might.
“Grade Ones are very hard to get so I’m absolutely thrilled for everyone at the yard.
“I’m glad the Irish didn’t come but they will be at Cheltenham! I wouldn’t have thought we’d be going to take them on over there, we’ve got a lot of nice races here anyway.
“This ranks pretty high in my career, we’ve won a lot of nice races but this one is up there.”
Watch the replay here: