Sprinter Sacre slammed his rivals when winning the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in a canter.
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Paul Nicholls had exuded confidence in Sanctuaire, an impressive winner of his last three starts, and the two-mile Grade One contest was billed as a match between the pair.
Yet in eventuality the clash couldn't have been more one-sided as Nicky Henderson's star - the most exciting two-mile chaser to have emerged for years - breezed past his rival as they accelerated away from the Pond Fence.
Sanctuaire has been a reformed character since being given his head over fences and Ruby Walsh opened up an advantage of at least 10 lengths on the far side of the Esher track.
Barry Geraghty, aboard the 4/11 winner, had halved that gap by the first of the Railway Fences and was alongside three from home.
Walsh was beginning to niggle but neither Geraghty nor Sprinter Sacre had broken sweat and the pair fairly glided past their rival.
The final two fences proved no obstacle to the brilliant six-year-old, who paraded in front of the stands after the race to a rapturous reception.
The efforts of Sanctuaire told as he was passed late on by Kumbeshwar who finished a distant second.
Henderson said: "He has got the 'wow' factor. It's been a long time since Aintree and I admit to being petrified about Sanctuaire.
"I knew that horse had got pace and would put it into the race which would stretch anybody and it was as soft as our fellow would ever want to go on.
"He's just class isn't he?
"I knew that I had something a bit special and I just wanted it to stay that way.
"That's as good a two-mile chaser as you'll ever see.
"He will probably go for the Victor Chandler and Cheltenham, I don't know for sure, but there aren't that many options and then on to Aintree or Punchestown."
Geraghty partnered Moscow Flyer to win 10 Grade One chases, including two Queen Mother Champion Chases, and he believes Sprinter Sacre compares favourably.
He added: "He's the closest I have ridden to Moscow. Time will tell (if he will be as good) but he's going the right way.
"He's the most natural I have ever ridden and so far, so good."
The performance left the bookmakers running for cover with Sky Bet quoting Sprinter Sacre at just 2/5 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.