Harry Angel took his first step on what connections hope will be a long and prosperous road with a commanding victory in the Duke of York Stakes at York on Wednesday on his seasonal comeback.
If the world's leading sprinter from last year was going to be vulnerable, perhaps this could have been the time. Having gained notoriety for his headstrong antics, first time out carrying a 5lb penalty against race-fit rivals could have exposed any chinks in his armour.
However, despite the odd moment of worry, the Clive Cox-trained sprinting star made his class tell with an ultimately authoritative victory.
After kicking out in the stalls, Harry Angel was positioned by regular rider Adam Kirby just off the pace set by Ornate in the five-strong field, which was the first single-figure line-up in the race since 1995.
Sent off the 4-9 favourite following the morning withdrawal of last year's winner Tasleet, the Godolphin-owned four-year-old made smooth headway to lead two furlongs out and kept on well despite edging left to beat Brando by two lengths.
"I'm thrilled he has taken that first step well," said Cox. "I know it was a smaller field than usual but he had the penalty. There was a bit of freshness there and I know he'll improve for the run.
"In his younger days, he was just very keen to show that he was in charge and it's nice we've been able to harness that and see the just rewards now.
"We always believed everything could come together and it was about taking the right steps and patience invested by a lot of people. I'm extremely grateful to Sheikh Mohammed for keeping him in training and hopefully we can keep moving forwards."
Harry Angel, a dual Group 1 winner last season with victories in the July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup, was universally cut for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, with Betfair Sportsbook going a standout 3-1 (from 4).
"It will be Ascot next and then the July Cup," said Cox, who won the 2013 Diamond Jubilee with Lethal Force after he finished second in this race.
"People mention he's never won at Ascot but I don't think there's anything to read into that."
There has been some noise emanating from Australia about the prospect of Harry Angel competing in the Everest in October but Cox was occupied with more immediate targets.
"Somebody was talking about it and it's really nice," he said. "If I had a slot in that race I'd have wanted Harry Angel to run in it. It's a long way off and it won't be for me to decide."
Kirby, who has ridden Harry Angel on all nine of his career starts, said: "He's grown up a lot and all credit to the team. Clive has trained him as a racehorse and had to train his mind, but all the good ones have got fire in them."
Kevin Ryan was happy with Brando's performance but was not in a rush to take on the winner again.
He said: "I'm delighted with him. He has run a huge race and been beaten by a sensational sprinter. I can't avoid Harry Angel in the future – but I'll try.
"We'll probably now go to Ireland for the Greenlands Stakes before the July Cup and the Maurice de Gheest."
Reflecting on the unusually small field, York chief executive William Derby said: "There were a lot of entries but Clive Cox said early on that Harry Angel was going to run and I think that scared a few off – and sadly Tasleet was lame."
Harry Angel, picture Newbury Racecourse