Another grey day at Kempton for Nacarat.
Trainer Tom George will be disappointed there are not more suitable races at Sunbury venue for his virtually white chaser, with the King George proving on three occasions to be a little beyond Nacarat's reach.
But the slight drop in grade back to a top-end handicap around the flat metropolitan course has always fitted his requirements, as the 11-year-old finished a close second and then third since his effortless success in 2009.
Beaten 41 lengths by Kauto Star on Boxing Day, Nacarat (9-2) could take charge on this occasion and was in command until joined by Hector's Choice turning for home.
Hector's Choice, though, could not match Nacarat at jumping and spurned his chance with two consecutive mistakes, allowing Paddy Brennan to seize control once again and pushing the crowd favourite 11 lengths clear.
George said: "He won't go to Cheltenham or back to Punchestown. He could go to Aintree again (Betfred Bowl), but it depends on the ground."
The rest of the afternoon centred upon an ever-changing cast of JCB Triumph Hurdle favourites.
When Minsk was only second on his debut in Ireland, to be followed by the news he will not run again this season because of an infection, the path was cleared for British challengers, with bookmakers' opinion divided over the impressions made by Baby Mix and Grumeti.
George's Baby Mix (4-1) had opened the batting when returning to his best in the William Hill-sponsored Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.
The Slad trainer had been puzzled as to why the grey failed to replicate his dazzling hurdling debut when returning to Cheltenham last month but was a different proposition under a more positive ride.
Sadler's Risk, the 11-10 favourite, only really appeared in the home straight, closing to within two lengths as Baby Mix became lonely on his own.
The race sponsors have Baby Mix as their 5-1 favourite, but Ladbrokes favour Grumeti at the same price after his one-and-a-half-length defeat of Dodging Bullets in the williamhill.
com Dovecote Novices' Hurdle.
Alan King's representative (4-9 favourite) was a long way in front of Baby Mix when dead-heating with Pearl Swan in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham and saw off Paul Nicholls' hurdling newcomer in uncompromising fashion on Saturday.
* Nacarat and Paddy Brennan on their way to victory in the Racing Plus Chase