Big Buck's was anything but bowed as he succumbed to 66-1 outsider Knockara Beau in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham to end his 18-race winning streak.
Trainer Paul Nicholls admitted his hand was forced into introducing the 11-year-old back into competition on heavy ground as he continued his preparation for a fifth World Hurdle after 420 days on the sidelines with a tendon injury.
While former jockey Ruby Walsh would usually restrain Big Buck's until the final couple of flights, new pilot Sam Twiston-Davies boldly sent him forward with more than a mile (1600m) remaining.
In the run to the finish, his exertions started to count as he was passed by Knockara Beau and At Fishers Cross to hit the line third.
He was cut by World Hurdle sponsors Ladbrokes to 5-4 from 7-4 for his next assignment on March 15 and Nicholls took only positives from the run.
"I'm delighted with him, he travelled with all his old zest and jumped well, but he just got a little tired after the back of the last," Nicholls said.
"It's very testing ground and we could easily have taken him out and saved him for another day, but I was desperate to get a run into him before the World Hurdle.
"That will improve him enormously."
"I said to Sam to be positive on him and if he got tired, he got tired."
Twiston-Davies said Big Buck's lack of race practice only showed on the flat run to the post.
"I rode him as if he was 150 per cent ready and he just got tired in the last 150 yards, which is fair enough as he has been off for more than a year," he said.
"Most of the others had the benefit of a couple of runs."