The Alan King-trained Valdez recorded an impressive success in the Racing Post Lightning Novices' Chase at Doncaster.
Charles Byrnes' Irish challenger Arnaud set out to make all under Denis O'Regan, with the eventual winner settled near the rear of the five-runner field in the early stages of the two-mile contest.
Arnaud was jumping boldly at the head of affairs and put in a particularly spectacular leap four from home, but he was starting to tread water approaching the last and Robert Thornton pounced on 15/8 favourite Valdez.
The seven-year-old soon had the race in safe keeping and pulled three and a quarter-lengths clear of the gallant front-runner.
"It's nice to ride a winner back for Alan. It's the first weekend we've had winners for a while and this horse is better than that," said Thornton.
"He got a sniff of getting by the second horse going to the last and he's gone and attacked it. That was pleasing.
"I think he probably showed better than that in his previous run. His jumping wasn't as good as it has been in the past but we can sort that out.
"He'll have options at Cheltenham - the Arkle and the Grand Annual. We'll stick to two miles with him for now anyway."
Valdez was left unchanged at 16/1 with for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.
Representative Michael Shinners said: "Valdez looks on a real upward curve and it's great to see Alan King back in the groove after the yard was effectively shut down for a couple of weeks.
"But this race lost a bit of lustre when Rock On Ruby pulled out on account of the ground and we've haven't learnt a great deal more about Valdez than we already knew."