Trainer Paul Nicholls won the Tingle Creek for a ninth time when Dodging Bullets scored under Sam Twiston-Davies on Saturday.
The six-year-old produced a perfect round of jumping before quickening away from his rivals to win by two-and-a-half lengths.
Nicholls was as surprised as anyone afterwards, after feeling disappointed with his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last month, but the Ditcheat handler admitted all roads now lead back to the Cotswolds in March.
“You never stop learning about them,” said Nicholls. “I thought he’d go close first time but he obviously needed the run.”
With doubts continuing to surround Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy – the previous two-mile champions – Nicholls has no doubts about the main target for the remainder of the season.
He added: “The Champion Chase will be our aim now. He’s getting stronger and better and we know how to train him now. We’ll get him at his best at Cheltenham and he should be there with a chance.”
Twiston-Davies was also full of praise for the winner, admitting he was full of confidence in the closing stages.
“He’s a very accurate jumper, so going around here suits him,” Twiston-Davies said. “I was confident going around the Pond Fence but you never really know what’s behind you, so for me it was all about getting to the last, getting over the last and then going for it.”
The Nicholls team have not claimed the two-mile championship contest since Master Minded secured his second Champion Chase victory in 2009.