Tony McCoy guides Master Minded past faller Fiepes Shuffle at the first
Master Minded dealt with the threat of a loose horse to win by 10 lengths in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
The 4-7 favourite, ridden by Tony McCoy and trained by Paul Nicholls, had to jump over Fiepes Shuffle, who unseated his jockey at the first fence.
Tidal Bay came second but never threatened the winner while Takeroc, also a Nicholls horse, was third.
Another stablemate, Twist Magic, seemed likely to pose the greatest danger before falling two fences from home.
"He's an exceptionally good traveller and a good jumper," McCoy said of Master Minded, now as short as 1-2 with Ladbrokes to repeat his success in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham next March.
Having "jocked off" the Nicholls-retained Sam Thomas for the ride, the Irishman added: "We spent the whole race worrying about the loose horse, but I'm very lucky to be allowed to ride him.
"To be fair I think anyone could have ridden him, even Ruby [Walsh] and he's only half-fit - in fact I'm surprised he didn't try to!"
Nicholls, who celebrated his fourth successive victory in the race and his sixth in all, said: "I'm thrilled with that, there was a lot of pressure. A perfect start to the season for him."
Tidal Bay maintained his record of never having finished out of the first two, but a two-mile race was too sharp for him at this level.
The King George VI Chase is his immediate target, and that will be his first try at three miles. He can be backed at around 5-1 in ante-post markets for that race.
In the day's other big race, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Wetherby, pre-race favourite Punjabi signalled his intent for the Champion Hurdle by snatching a win on the line.
The five-year-old, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty, jumped the last alongside 2007 Champion Hurdle winner Sublimity.
But although he slipped behind, Geraghty rallied his mount to force a narrow win on the line. Blue Bajan finished third of the six runners.
The result was the 15th winner in a fortnight for the red-hot Henderson yard.
Seasons Holidays Tingle Creek Chase Sandown
1 Master Minded (A P McCoy) 4-7 Fav
2 Tidal Bay (D O'Regan) 11-4
3 Takeroc (C Williams) 16-1
7 ran Distances: 10 lengths; 4½ lengths; distance
WBX.COM "Fighting Fifth" Wetherby
1 Punjabi (B J Geraghty) 8-11 Fav
2 Sublimity (A J McNamara) 9-4
3 Blue Bajan (P Hide) 9-1
6 ran Distances: Head; 3½ lengths; 9 lengths