Bullets Fires From the Front
(Healy Racing Photos)
With none of the jockeys prepared to set the pace early on, Ruby Walsh took the race by the scruff of the neck and dictated a very muddling pace.
All eight runners held a chance turning for home but the 5/4 favourite held them all off up the hill, and despite a bad mistake at the final flight, Paul Nicholls' ace was able to come home in-front.
Nicky Henderson's River Maigue (4/1) made a strong challenge before the final hurdle but had to settle for second under Barry Geraghty, whilst Evan Williams' Court Minstrel (6/1) stayed on best to take third spot for Paul Moloney.
Fourth home was Nicky Richards' Duke Of Navan, whilst the well-touted Tominator disappointed further down the field.
The winner, who was left unchanged by Sky Bet at 14/1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in March, provided Nicholls and Walsh with a quick double following the victory of Shooters Wood in the preceding handicap chase.
Ante-post favourite Darlan heads 23 runners for Sunday's Racing Post Hurdle at Cheltenham.