Arcalis made an impressive seasonal reappearance to win the Grade One Pertemps 'Fighting Fifth' Hurdle at Newcastle.
Having his first run since taking the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, the 9-4 favourite led at the second-last flight and bounded clear of the opposition in the hands of Tony Dobbin.
The five-year-old powered home despite the rain-softened ground to win by five lengths from Royal Shakespeare, with The French Furze a short-head away third.
He was completing a big across-the-card double for trainer Howard Johnson and owner Graham Wylie, who were successful with Inglis Drever in the Ballymore Properties Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
Dobbin told Channel 4 Racing: "We were worried about the ground for this fellow, but he's shown - like at Cheltenham last season - he's got a very quick turn of speed."
"He's a very high-class horse and travelled really well, quickened up and pricked his ears over the last. He's very good."
"The ground was a concern but the trainer felt that if he is going to win a Champion Hurdle he's going to have to win a race like this on heavy ground."
Asked about his Champion Hurdle claims, the rider added: "Hardy Eustace is there to be beaten. He's a very good champion but this fellow will be standing on their heels."
Arcalis is 8-1 from 14-1 for the Smurfit Champion Hurdle with William Hill, and 6-1 from 12s with VC Bet.
Filed by Katie Byrne