Tom George landed the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton for a third time as Clondaw Castle relished the step up in trip.
Having his first try over three miles, the nine-year-old was being rewarded for a string of consistent efforts.
Fourth in the Arkle as a novice, he was second in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree earlier in the season.
George had been keen to step him up in trip – but must have wondered if he had done the right thing when Richard Johnson and Mellow Ben set a brisk early gallop that looked sure to find out any rivals with stamina doubts.
With half a mile to run the pace was beginning to falter, but Jamie Moore made sure that was not for long as he took over on Erick Le Rouge.
He led at the second-last but Johnathan Burke had still to ask for everything on Clondaw Castle (17-2) who ran right through the line, coming away to win well by two lengths.
Last year’s winner Mister Malarky was third, with Romain De Senam fourth. George enjoyed earlier successes in the race through the popular Nacarat, who struck twice, in 2009 and 2012.
George said: “I’m delighted. Jonathan Burke said they were going so quick that he could not have been any closer early on. They went a fair gallop around there. He had to sit tight and wait his moment, but once they started coming back to him, he knew he was always under control.
“He was probably a bit unlucky in the Peterborough Chase when he made a mistake or was almost brought down coming down the hill. The ground was very soft that day, but this is his ground today – a flat track over three miles, this is his optimum conditions.
“He was off 154 today, so that puts him into graded class which I’ve always thought he was. He is in at Cheltenham, but in the back of my mind, I’ve always had it that he will go from here (Kempton) to Aintree for the Bowl.
“He is capable of doing what Nacarat did, to be honest It depends what else turns up, but he will be a fresh horse. Nacarat won this and then won the Grade One there. He will keep on improving over three miles and has had a good long break before this. He should be off a mark of 160 by then and I think handicaps are out of the equation.
“I think the key is a nice, flat track and quick ground. I think he was a bit unfortunate not to have won the Old Roan Chase first time out this season when he was probably out in front a bit too long. He is still learning and hasn’t had that much racing.”
He added: “This race has been a special race for us. Nacarat won it twice and Double Shuffle was second in it twice, so we’ve had some good days here. It is important they keep the track as well, as you need good tracks where you get better ground, rather than keep going around on deep ground all winter.
“The season has been a frustrating one. There has been about five or six different factors and you put them all together and it becomes quite a big thing – a lot of bad ground and badly handicapped horses. I haven’t been concerned and we’ve sat tight.
“I’ve had two winners today and a big winner at Warwick on Friday, so the big thing is to sit tight when things aren’t happening and wait your moment, and hopefully everyone will be rewarded. From now until May is probably the biggest part of the season with lots of good races everywhere.
“I have got a lot of young horses and there is plenty to look forward to.”
The Colin Tizzard-trained Mister Malarky, meanwhile, looks set to take his chance in the Grand National.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He has run well today. With a lot of weight on his back, he has run a blinder. He has bounced off the ground. Harry (Kimber) got a really good start on him, which was important, and then he’s run his race. So, I’m pleased with him.
“I think we will go to the Grand National after that. I think it will convince everybody to have a crack at it on a bit of spring ground. We’ll probably swerve Cheltenham and go straight there.”