Altior maintained his unbeaten record over jumps with a clear-cut victory over Un De Sceaux in the Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Nicky Henderson's champion was backed as if defeat was out of the question (8/13 favourite) and his followers had very few moments of concern, other than an early mistake at the open ditch which jolted rider Nico De Boinville forward in the saddle briefly before the four-runner field had all settled down into a rhythm.
The Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux took it up under Ruby Walsh from young pretender Saint Calvados around the halfway mark and while Daryl Jacob tried to steal Sceau Royal into the Grade One from off the pace, the big two just poured it on and had it between them from three out.
Altior wasn't the best two from home but then kicked into his customary top gear in the worsening conditions, before storming home to score by four lengths after a fine leap at the last.
Henderson: "That was special, I think that was really testing him today and, like Buveur D'Air last week, if he was going to get beat it would have been today.
"When you have genuine championship horses it is great people appreciate them, but it does make you feel the pressure.
"They were four very good horses in horrible ground today and they've all run their best."
He went on: "It's a sense of relief. Very much so. We have always Ummed and ahhed about soft ground. I remember the last two years in the Game Spirit at Newbury, we were umming and ahhing until the tee-off time, because it was soft ground. But today it was proper hard work going round.
"We knew Ruby Walsh would set a gallop and he made it as tough as he could. But this is an amazing horse and you couldn't make it too tough for him.
"That is not his ground, but he is that good. He was fit, and he had to be, because they were going to test us, weren't they? I think that's as good a performance as he has ever produced, because it is first time out, a proper gallop and a proper race. There was a proper gallop in that ground.
"Nico said it was just heavy ground. He has never been in that before and I don't think he likes it, as I said before. He does stay, because he does keep galloping and he has won nicely in the end. He galloped away, didn't he? He said he didn't have to work for it."
De Boinville said: "That rain just beforehand really did open that ground up. We were getting drenched down at the start, but Ruby has gone out and made it a true championship pace.
"All credit to Un De Sceaux for keeping going. That was some performance from him. That was a great performance, the gallop he went. He has been around a long time. It just seemed to set up the race nicely for us and we always had that kick at the end.
"And when you reach a hill in that ground as well, he just seemed to go into overdrive there.
"The first ditch mistake made him wake up a bit. He was fresh and well going into this, and we haven't done that much schooling, as we haven't been able to get on the grass. We got on the grass last week and he probably only jumped about 10 fences coming into this.
"Maybe it woke him up, and when we went down to the downhill fence, he danced over it, so that was good. He felt absolutely fantastic today. It was a stronger gallop than I anticipated and on good ground that would have been a good gallop. It was end-to-end.
"I was very happy where I was, tracking in behind Un De Sceaux. I did think he was the one to track and I had it in my mind that would be how it would pan out, and I was proved right.
"Once we jumped the Railway fences, I thought I was all right. I was very happy where I was, and it was just a case of coming alive. He is very settled in behind, but once he gets to something's girths, away he goes, and he just seems to find more and more, like all good champions do.
"He felt fantastic. He is so quick over those fences. He is a champion, isn't he?"
Of Un De Sceaux, Walsh said: "He ran his heart out, jumped super. He jumped brilliant, but I've never been a good loser and I'm not any better now."
Sky Bet reacted by making Altior 5/6 favourite for the Queen Mother Chase Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, where he would be bidding for a fourth straight success at the meeting following wins in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Racing Post Arkle and last season's Champion.
Sky Bet's Michael Shinners said: "It's incredibly hard to see anything emerging as a genuine threat to Altior in March and although we're still a long way away, we've got to go odds-on for Nicky Henderson's star."