Vautour made every post a winning one to land the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle by six lengths, providing trainer Willie Mullins with his fourth victory in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser.
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Ridden by Ruby Walsh, who made all on Champagne Fever when scoring 12 months ago, the 7/2 joint-favourite always looked to be going strongly.
He jumped brilliantly on the whole, making a slight mistake three from home, but he already had fellow pace-setters The Liquidator and Splash Of Ginge in trouble by then.
Stablemate Wicklow Brave set out in pursuit as Vautour stormed clear on turning into the straight, but he couldn't keep tabs on the winner and faded, with the Nicky Henderson-trained pair Josses Hill and Vaniteux running on for second and third respectively.
Sgt Reckless, last in the early stages of the race, flew home up the hill to claim fourth, with Wilde Blue Yonder a fine fifth.
The disappointment of the race was fellow joint-favourite Irving, who was in trouble some way out and could manage only a remote ninth.
Gilgamboa made a terrible mistake two flights from the finish and couldn't recover, trailing home in 13th.
Walsh said: "I rode him like a stayer, I wasn't going to drop him in, and he jumped brilliantly. I've been doubting him all week, but he's a serious horse. He was doing a hack all the way and he jumped super when I needed him."
"I rode him like a stayer, I wasn't going to drop him in, and he jumped brilliantly. I've been doubting him all week, but he's a serious horse. He was doing a hack all the way and he jumped super when I needed him."
A relieved Mullins, who has a host of fine chances to win throughout the Festival, added: "That takes the pressure off a bit.
"He was very keen over the first and second hurdles, but I think Ruby accepted he was going to be keen and let him gallop and use his stride.
"The next thing it was like he was on a different set of rails to the other horses. That's what I found amazing. I thought if he could keep that up he was going to produce a performance like he did, and he did.
"It was just the way he cruised in front. It's extraordinary that a horse can have that sort of control in a Supreme for one that everyone had down as stayer.
"He made a mistake and I was worried that might knock the stuffing out of him, but he picked himself up and jumped the last.
"You could see him the whole way (up the run-in) idling - he wasn't even racing.
"He has the size and physique, and on that performance I think we can't wait to get over fences with him.
"I thought he was good, but I didn't expect that. He has treated them like a bunch of maidens.
"He'll get two-mile-four and three miles in time, and Punchestown would be the obvious place to go."
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Owner Rich Ricci said: "I'm completely made up by that.
"We always thought he was a good horse and since October I thought he was our best novice.
"The credit has to go to Willie and Ruby - they are the stars."
Henderson, delighted with the efforts of his pair, said: "They have both run fantastic races, but in a way it's annoying for them to run so well and get thumped like that.
"My Tent Or Yours, Darlan, Binocular and Sprinter Sacre have all been placed (in the Supreme) and come on for the race."
Alan Spence, owner Josses Hill, was equally delighted, said: "His scope was all wrong and Nicky said he could have done with another week, but he wouldn't have beaten the winner in another week. He'll go chasing next year."
Of Sgt Reckless, his trainer Mick Channon commented: "He was in a good position at the start but he got squeezed and lost his place. He stayed on from a mile back.
"We've been waiting for some decent ground and I don't see why he shouldn't run again somewhere."