Peddlers Cross failed to make a winning comeback at Kempton, but trainer Donald McCain is still satisfied that his stable star is on the right track.
Entitled to be rusty, as he had not competed since his disappointing effort in the Jewson Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last March, Peddlers Cross looked in rude health as the field swung into the home straight of a bumper designed for chasers.
Jason Maguire (below) was forced to switch the 5/4 favourite at a vital moment and was unable to resist a challenge on the outside from Sam Winner (7/1), finishing two lengths adrift in second.
"Don't ask me where he goes next," said McCain, who has entered the eight-year-old in both the Champion Hurdle and Ladbrokes World Hurdle later on.
"He's relaxing better, but still showing plenty of boot.
"I want to try him over further and we'll go wherever we have to (to run)."
Sam Winner, fourth in the 2011 Triumph, had a disastrous spell novice chasing himself last term.
Dan Skelton, assistant to trainer Paul Nicholls, said: "He had an operation on his knee and needed plenty of recuperation time. He'll go straight to Cheltenham now for the Pertemps."
While the outcome of these all-weather races were not of vital importance, there was information to be gleaned from several other heats.
Fair Trade, which ran in the 2,000 Guineas a couple of years ago, remembered his Flat speed of old as he sprinted an impressive two and a half lengths away from Pearl Swan in a 'jumper's bumper' for hurdlers.
The 5/4 favourite Pearl Swan had been absent for 315 days and Charlie Liverton, representing owner Robin Geffen, said: "He was always vulnerable for being tapped for toe over two miles on the Flat, but it's good to see him back and, hopefully, all systems go for the Betfair Hurdle."
A decent bumper performer, Nicky Henderson's Ericht (3/1 favourite) was delivered with panache by Barry Geraghty in the day's opener and is now likely to run in a handicap hurdle.