Past Cheltenham Festival winner Ibis Du Rheu got back to winning ways at Cheltenham on Saturday, landing his first success since the big meeting in March, 2016.
The seven-year-old, whose most recent success came in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle at The Festival, landed the mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase, becoming trainer Paul Nicholls' fourth winner of the race in the past eight years - he won it 12 months ago with Black Corton.
Harry Cobden was in the saddle today as Ibis Du Rheu (11/2), who is owned by John Hales, battled on to beat Theatre Territory (8/1) by a length in the seven-runner race.
Somerset-based Nicholls said: "He's been hard to train in the past two seasons - last season he came in late and the ground was heavy, which he hates. This time he came in early and today was the first time I felt we had him right for a long time.
"It takes a huge amount of work to get the weight off him, but he looked great today and I knew he would run tidy, I just wondered if he might need the run. He can only improve, he's only seven, and is one of those horses who will get better with age.
"He had some stiff tasks last season, but we can go forward from here. He gallops and stays and will definitely have an entry in the four-miler here at The Festival.
"He can switch from novices' races to handicaps, but he's a fun horse. He's not going to be a Grade One winner, but he could be another Neptune Collonges for John and go to Aintree one day, because all he does is stay."
Nicholls said Clan Des Obeaux will be his runner in next week's G1 Betfair Chase, while Politologue will run at Ascot, presenting jockey Harry Cobden with a dilemma over which horse to ride.
It was a 27.17/1 double for the trainer and jockey after Quel Destin's 100/30 success in the first race.
The seven-year-old son of Blue Bresil knuckled down gamely in the closing stages to master long-time leader Theatre Territory (8/1) and score by a length.
Cobden and 10-time British champion Jump trainer Nicholls teamed up to land the first race of the day, the G2 JCB Triumph Trial Hurdle with 10/3 shot Quel Destin.
Cobden, number one rider to Ditcheat handler Nicholls, said: "Ibis Du Rheu jumped very well and travelled great.
"I think he appreciated the better ground and has done it really well. It probably won't have helped his handicap mark but he has won around Cheltenham and that's his job, really.
"Paul was mentioning the four-miler [National Hunt Chase] and I think he would be made for that - it's just a shame that a professional can't ride him!
"He jumped very well. He used to be quite keen and wear a hood - he never used to help himself too much - but now he settles well and is a really nice horse to ride."
"Things couldn't have gone any better so far and hopefully it continues throughout the rest of the day."
Winning owner John Hales, commented: "Ibis Du Rheu put everything together today probably for the first time since he won the Martin Pipe here. We have had a lot of niggling problems with him but Paul had him spot on today - his coat was beautiful and he looked really well.
"Paul has only just put the National Hunt Chase idea to me. He has tremendous stamina and will probably be a Grand National horse one day.
"I am just overjoyed with that performance because he hasn't done for the last two seasons. He fractured a pelvis and has had niggling injuries - it takes a long time to get them right but well done Paul for getting him spot on today.
"The ground was perfect for him and he jumped very, very well."
Having put up an eye-catching performance of front-running and jumping, the Sam Waley-Cohen-ridden Theatre Territory was just caught up the hill by Ibis Du Rheu,
The eight-year-old mare, trained by Warren Greatrex, was beaten a length at odds of 8/1.
"We're very happy, but we've hit the cross-bar again," said Greatrex. "She jumped great, and we want to win, she put it to them and I thought turning in she'd take a bit of passing, but she isn't the quickest. She stays and stays and stays.
"The main target all season is the Grand National. I think she's made for it, but we need to get her in it, so it will all be about trying to find the right races to get her handicap mark up."
Amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen said: "She's run brilliantly - jumped well and travelled well. She's great fun to ride and keeps just finding one too good. She'll have her day; it's just what day that's going to be."
Third was the evens favourite, The Worlds End, ridden by Adrian Heskin and trained by Tom George, a length and three-quarters behind Theatre Territory.
"No excuses - I don't know; wasn't good enough on the day," said George.
Ibis Du Rheu is a 25/1 shot with Paddy Power and 33/1 with Betfair for the RSA Chase at The Festival™ presented by Magners in March.
1.15pm mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase 3m 80y
1 Ibis Du Rheu (John Hales) Paul Nicholls 7-11-10 Harry Cobden 11/2
2 Theatre Territory (Robert Waley-Cohen) Warren Greatrex 8-10-07 Mr Sam Waley-Cohen 8/1
3 The Worlds End (McNeil Family) Tom George 7-11-05 Adrian Heskin Evens Fav
Distances: 1, 1¾
Tote: £6.10 Places: £2.40, £2.50 Exacta: £41.60
Theatre Territory leads from eventual winner Ibis Du Rheu in the mallardjewllers.com Novices' Chase, picture Cheltenham Racecourse