Talk of many a Festival preview night, Imperial Aura rewarded all those who listened by winning the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase by three and a quarter lengths.
The seven-year-old travelled nicely from a prominent position for most of the way. He took it up for his rider David Bass turning in and was able to hold off the challenge of the Gordon Elliott-trained Galvin by staying strongly up the hill.
This always looked like the right race for Imperial Aura after his runner-up finish in the Timeform Novices' Handicap Chase on Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day [January 25th], which in recent years has proved a reliable guide to the outcome of this race. Trainer Kim Bailey confirmed as much, saying: "That was the plan."
"Obviously, we came here very hopeful. It's a huge relief as the anticipation has been high - today was the goal for the whole season. I'm not stupid, I read the papers and I knew everybody was tipping him.
"He ran a blinder here last time, when we knew that he wasn't 100%. The horse had a very good preparation. He's a syndicate horse and it's a dream come true.
Imperious!— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 10, 2020
The well-backed Imperial Aura delivers for punters with a commanding success in the Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase ?? #CheltenhamFestival @kimbaileyracing pic.twitter.com/bcVnlX4A9w
"He jumped really well here last time. We started at Fakenham with basically a walkover and just needed to get experience. Luckily, when he came here last time there were enough runners and he could get in amongst other horses. He is just a really nice horse and looked fantastic today. All credit to the team - Matt, Lee and everybody else.
"He has always shown that he is a nice horse - he has won his bumper and his hurdle races. I made the decision to go chasing this season rather than hurdling and thank God I did now.
"This is why we do it. It's a struggle in life anyway and this is what you come here for. We are at Cheltenham and Cheltenham is the best. To be here and have a winner is the best as well."
Bass and Bailey combined with Vinndication to finish fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase earlier in the day and the rider was delighted to get on the scoresheet at the meeting in the colours of 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander.
He said: "I had nice position on Imperial Aura.
"The Henderson horse has given me a lovely lead and I couldn't be happier as I know he stays well. He was brilliant today and, to be fair, we were confident that he would improve from Trials Day.
"The way he picked up, pinged the last two and ran to the line was impressive and he has improved. I was so gutted when he got beat here in January - I thought that he would win everywhere - but he has improved and it is a great team effort.
"It is a great bunch of owners and a great syndicate, a really good bunch of people. Lauren, who looks after the horse, absolutely loves him and adores the horse.
"I have been lucky in that I have come here to ride really good horses. I know how hard it is to ride winners here, it is the hardest place. My strike rate here outside The Festival is poor and you just have to keep trying and coming back. It's so hard to get on the right one and I am incredibly lucky that I am able to come here and ride horses like that. There are far better jockeys than me who have ridden no Festival winners.
On the runner-up, Davy Russell, said: "You can't be happy finishing second, but he ran his race. The winner's a good horse," while Elliott said: "Second again. The horses are running well but we are hitting the cross-bar. It was a good run and we're very happy."