Only two horses faced the tape in the Cheltenham Annual Members Novices' Chase, but it proved an absorbing contest as Third Intention lowered the colours of accomplished Irish visitor Rebel Fitz on the opening afternoon of the new season at Prestbury Park.
Colin Tizzard's Third Intention, who made all the running and jumped flawlessly, had a contrasting style with the Mick Winters-trained Rebel Fitz, who was a winner of his previous five chasing starts but was inconsistent, and often over-exuberant, at the fences.
Third Intention (11-8), ridden by Joe Tizzard, had been placed, albeit distantly, behind Dynaste in both the Feltham at Kempton and the Mildmay at Aintree, but a breathing operation may now see him in a better light.
The speed of the 2012 Galway Hurdle winner Rebel Fitz kept him in the hunt but he was always chasing Third Intention and was beaten by a length and a quarter.
"He might go to the Paddy Power meeting, but we'll see" - Colin Tizzard
"People have crabbed him, said he has thrown races away, and his head has gone up in the past, but he stuck his head down there," said Tizzard.
"We checked him out in the summer and he had a wind op. He might go to the Paddy Power meeting, but we'll see."
Winters said: "We were beaten by the better horse on the day. He was a bit big and careful, and he missed the third last.
"We're happy enough, he'll have a bit of a break now, and maybe slightly quicker ground would help."
Paul Nicholls and new stable jockey Daryl Jacob had a decent afternoon, starting when Saint Roque (11-4) resisted a strong late challenge from 2-1 favourite Rum And Butter up the hill in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle.
"I thought about starting off in the Persian War at Chepstow next week - he could still go there if it's decent ground - but this looked the right option," said Nicholls.
"Daryl said he was ready to go chasing but we'll see. There's no real plan at the moment."
Stablemate Lac Fontana, who was thrown into the deep end last term, appreciated the drop in class as 8-13 favourite for the Jack Dee Here On 31st October Maiden Hurdle
Nicholls said: "He got a bit lazy into the Triumph Hurdle, so I wanted Daryl to wind him up today. He'll come back at the Open meeting."
Tony McCoy requires just 25 more winners to reach the magic 4,000 courtesy of Twirling Magnet (7-1), who entered the equation for the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase after 7-2 joint-favourite Pantxoa made a thumping mistake at the second-last.
Trainer Jonjo O'Neill said: "I wasn't confident as I thought it was too good a race.
"That's his last chance in a novice, and he might go for the three-mile-three at the Open meeting."
O'Neill had to explain to the stewards Twirling Magnet was better suited by the step up in trip and the left-handed track.
Trackmate (9-1), trained to the minute by James Evans, helped Barry Preece achieve his ambition of owning a Cheltenham winner by staying on past Benbane Head in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.