Rebel Fitz made a winning return to action with a smooth display in the racinghomeforeaster.com Hurdle at Cork.
The 2012 Galway Hurdle hero was returning to the smaller obstacles for the first time in almost a year having won five of his seven starts during a novice campaign over fences, with his final appearance being a narrow defeat at Cheltenham in October.
Mick Winters' charge suffered an odds-on reverse at the hands of the talented Tarla in this event 12 months ago and the Willie Mullins-trained mare was a well supported 15-8 favourite to confirm the placings this time around.
Tarla bowled along at the head of affairs for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey in the hands of Paul Townend, closely pursued by Jennies Jewel and Rebel Fitz under Barry Geraghty.
Jennies Jewel dropped away from the home turn, leaving the main two protagonists to fight it out.
Tarla looked to be travelling the better of the two after jumping the third-last flight, but was a spent force after the following obstacle and 9-4 chance Rebel Fitz quickly asserted to seal a comfortable victory.
Geraghty was delighted to see Rebel Fitz handle the testing conditions so well.
He said: "He was very good.
"We were worried about the ground as he has struggled on soft ground in the past, but he felt better today on that ground than he has done before.
"He went to sleep, but I gave him a squeeze.
"I wasn't intending on challenging for the lead at the second last, but I was happy enough to put the race to bed at that stage."
Winters said: "We all said this time last year that he was a small bit off, but he got a bit healthier as the year moved on. Hopefully we'll see the real horse this year.
"It will be another two or three weeks before he hits his peak and his second run is normally his best run.
"He'll have a crack at the Powers Gold Cup now and after that there is a Grade One novice chase over two miles at Punchestown for him.
"We'll school him over fences now before Fairyhouse.
"We've had no winners since Christmas and the horses haven't been quite right, but a good horse will always pull you out of a ruck."