After defeats to Dunguib and Master Minded earlier in the week, the 5-6 on shot finally got the bookmakers paying out for red-hot favourites with a dominant display.
Last year, Nicholls’ charge had to dig deep to see off Punchestown in the three-mile contest, but there was no such problem this year as Ruby Walsh guided him home with plenty left in the tank.
“He’s a hugely talented horse,” Nicholls said. “It’s unbelievable. I worked the horses on Saturday morning – Poquelin, Master Minded, Kauto Star, the lot. They all worked well but he worked like a hairy goat.
“That’s just him and I lost confidence a bit and I was sweating beforehand. He never hit a flat spot today. We were keen to get him fresh and you have to get into his head a bit more than anything. He’s very good.”
Nicholls announced his plans to race Big Buck’s in next month’s Grand National and Walsh believes the horse is in the form of his life.
“He’s a special horse. He’s absolutely bolted in,” Walsh said. “He’s got a terrific engine and that was a good round of jumping, he jumped better today than he ever has done.”
Second favourite Karabak, ridden by Tony McCoy, could only settle for fourth with Time for Rupert (16-1) and Powerstation (33-1) both edging him.
McCoy, however, had earlier enjoyed a second win of the Festival after running out an impressive winner of the Ryanair Chase on Albertas Run.
The 14-1 shot beat favourite Poquelin into second with Walsh’s charge J’y Vole edged into third.
Copper Bleu claimed an eventful Jewson Novices Handicap Chase which saw several fallers. He held off Othermix for a12-1 success with The Midnight Club and well-backed China Rock making up the places.
Trainer David Pipe enjoyed a double victory. First, 16-1 shot Buena Vista made all the running to win the Pertemps Final from Prince Erik and Chamirey, then Great Endeavour, at 18-1, landed the Byrne Group Plate, ahead of favourite Sunnyhillboy and From Dawn to Dusk.