Bobs Worth was billed as the one horse in the Hennessy Gold Cup field capable of making up into a championship-level performer and his star quality shone through in the famous Newbury handicap.

It is Barry Geraghty, not trainer Nicky Henderson, who knows the gelding best as he bought him as a yearling and sold him on a couple of years later to enthusiastic syndicate The Not Afraid Partnership, a collection of Henderson's friends headed up by Malcolm Kimmins.

Already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner in the Albert Bartlett and last season in the RSA Chase, this three and a quarter-length defeat of top-weight Tidal Bay means Bobs Worth is now available at no bigger than 5-1 to take the Gold Cup next March.

Surprisingly, in a big field not short of jumping mistakes and fallers, very few ever featured prominently and Irish raider First Lieutenant, who had pushed Bobs Worth all the way home in the RSA, was quickly into the lead and still travelling well in the home straight.

Geraghty had taken more of a stealth policy on the 4-1 favourite and was not really spotted until the turn for home, prompting Bryan Cooper to conjure a phenomenal leap from First Lieutenant at the third-last.

It was not enough, and in spite of warnings at the start of the week from Henderson over the dangers of potentially soft ground, Bobs Worth drew relentlessly clear as Tidal Bay stole second from the weakening First Lieutenant.

"He was potentially the classiest horse in the race and if he's going to get to the top, he had to win here, but it's mighty nice to win, whatever it holds for the future," said Henderson, whose only other Hennessy triumph came from a similar type of horse in Trabolgan.

"He's so tough, but he makes you sweat as he doesn't do an awful lot. It was only three days ago when I went round evening stables that I thought he was right - it was like a rose coming into bloom.

"He was potentially the classiest horse in the race and if he's going to get to the top, he had to win here" - Nicky Henderson

"He's owned by some of my oldest friends, and it's for them, and Barry, more than anything."

Henderson recently mentioned the Lexus Chase at Christmas as an option for Bobs Worth and his main aim will be to keep the seven-year-old apart from stablemate Long Run.

"Barry has said before that he does need to go left-handed," he said.

"So I would say the King George is out of the equation and it's just a matter of plotting a gentle route back to Cheltenham.

"We've been getting a lot of seconds this week, but then good old Bob comes to the rescue."

Geraghty said: "He loves it, he really does. He's not overly big and you can't ask too much during the race. You just have to let him build and build.

"I was under the collar a lot of the way, but I knew going to the last I had plenty of horse.

"He has a very good pedigree of Jim Bolger's and I bought him as a yearling with my brother. He was not far from the top there. He loves Cheltenham and he loves it round here."

The season so far has been dominated by Paul Nicholls, who had three more on the card here, and last year's Bet365 Gold Cup hero Tidal Bay continues to do him proud.

"If Bobs Worth was going to be a Gold Cup horse, he had to have beaten us getting 6lb," said Nicholls.

"To run like that off a mark of 166 is a great effort and he might go to the Lexus now."

The Leopardstown December highlight is also firmly on First Lieutenant's agenda, as trainer Mouse Morris said: "He ran a cracker. He's a spring horse and would prefer better ground but I won't use that as an excuse. He'll go for the Lexus now."

The previous two Hennessy winners looked like shadows of their former selves, with Diamond Harry an 11th-fence faller and Carruthers, who could never get to his favoured position at the head of the affairs, eventually pulled up.