Go Conquer was an impressive winner of the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster – sparking Grand National hopes for his connections.
The 10-year-old was prominent throughout and won by six lengths at 8-1 for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and high-profile owners Paul and Clare Rooney.
Monbeg River and Go Conquer were vying for the lead almost throughout, with Martin Todhunter’s runner-up mostly shading that contest until the winner took over in the straight and stayed on impressively over this three-mile trip.
He and Tom Bellamy were in no danger from that point, chased by 25-1 shot Monbeg River – with Venetia Williams’ Calipto another five lengths back in third.
Go Conquer’s owners have caused a stir by failing to enter any of their horses so far for this year’s Cheltenham Festival – reportedly because of safety concerns.
Discussions between themselves and the course are ongoing, but it appears unlikely at this stage any Cheltenham race will be on Go Conquer’s agenda.
The owners’ racing manager Jason Maguire instead nominated the Randox Health Grand National as an intended target.
“That was good,” he said.
“Obviously he’d gone up 4lb for being beaten here the last day.
“He was up against it, but Tom got him into a great rhythm, and he jumped brilliantly. He got collared on the run-in here last time, so Tom was mindful of that and hung on to him as long as he could.
“The main aim is the Grand National. We’ll see where we go after that.”
The winning jockey added: “It was very straightforward from my point of view.
“I didn’t have to do an awful lot – he took me everywhere. I just sat on him and let him do the work.
“He never missed a beat jumping. I couldn’t believe going down to three out I was still on the bridle going into the straight.”
Bellamy is in no doubt Go Conquer is an Aintree contender, for owners who finished second there with The Last Samuri in 2016.
“I’d say the National will be his aim now,” he said.
“It won’t be easy going off 158 or something like that, but I’d love to ride him round there. He’d be a good jumper round there and enjoyable for whoever gets the leg up.”
Speaking from Cheltenham, Twiston-Davies added: “We always thought a lot of him, and the ground and distance was right for him today.
“Tom did a lovely job on him.”