Bred by flat jockey Frankie Dettori, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, the 9-2 chance powered to victory ahead of Somersby and Special Tiara.
Dodging Bullets has been the undoubted form two mile chaser this season but many believed there were more questions than answers to his Cheltenham claims.
They pointed to a bad record at the track, a profile that didn’t fit the trends of previous winners and a previous tendency to produce his best races in the early season.
They claimed former winner Sprinter Sacre – in only his second run in 15 months after a heart scare – and reigning champion Sire De Grugy would battle it out for top honours and leave the young upstart a spectator.
Instead both gave lacklustre performances as Twiston-Davies produced the goods, securing Nicholls the prized race for the fifth time.
“I know the other two were past champions but I couldn’t see why they were behind us in the betting, it must have been on sentiment,” said Nicholls.
“On form we should have been favourites but we’ve given some value to everyone who backed it. I never thought Dodging Bullets was a Master Minded or an Azertyuiop but he’s winning the same races they did now.
“I really love this race. Dodging Bullets was the progressive young horse and it’s them that usually come out on top and he did.”
Dettori admitted to ‘shaking like a leaf’ as the race went to post, adding: “He was bred to win the Derby, but this is second best. It’s the equivalent of the 100m final at the Olympics and what a horse.”
If day one belonged to Irish trainer Willie Mullins, then the second day of the Festival was all about Nicholls – as British trainers trimmed their rivals lead in the Prestbury Cup to 8-6.
Twiston-Davies also guided the hugely impressive Aux Ptit Soins to victory in the always competitive Coral Cup and 25-1 chance Qualando, ridden by Nick Scholfield, won the the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle for the Ditcheat-based trainer.
Nicky Henderson insisted there was no concerns with Sprinter Sacre who was pulled up in the closing stages of the championship race and Sire De Grugy’s trainer Gary Moore blamed quickening ground for his poor show.
“No predictions can be made today about what his future will be,” said Henderson.
“He has been a great horse and if it is wrong to go on then I’m sure we won’t do that. There are still technically years in him.”
Meanwhile, Silviniaco Conti leads the markets for Friday’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup after a final field of 18 was declared for the Festival showpiece.
The King George winner is considered a 3-1 shot while Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell is the clear second favourite at 8-1 ahead of Djakadam and Many Clouds at 9-1 while former winner Bob’s Worth is considered a 14-1 outsider.
13:30 GMT JLT Novices’ Chase
14:05 GMT Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle
14:40 GMT Ryanair Chase
15:20 GMT Ladbrokes World Hurdle
16:00 GMT Byrne Group Plate
16:40 GMT Kim Muir Challenge Cup
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