Beau Bay improved on his third place from 12 months ago to win the William Hill Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree.
Ridden by 3lb claiming conditional jockey Charlie Hammond, Beau Bay (20-1) jumped brilliantly throughout to see off the opposition and give 2014 Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland another winner over the famous fences.
Sir Jack Yeats made a brave bid to make all the running and he proved a tough nut to crack, but he was unable to hold the winner on the long run for home and was beaten five lengths at the line.
Modus was a length and three-quarters away in third place, with Flying Angel a further half-length back in fourth.
Newland said: “It’s a huge thrill. We absolutely love it here – it’s no secret. With Pineau De Re winning the National and Silver Adonis winning the Foxhunters’, it’s just about our favourite place.
“This lad is a stable star. He’s not getting any younger, but he was third in this race last year and seems to love these fences – it brings him alive and gives him that bit of improvement.
“We’ve seen other Grand National fence specialists do well today (Vieux Lion Rouge winning Becher Chase) and I’m so thrilled for the horse and so thrilled for Charlie Hammond, who has been with me since he had his first winner. He’s paid us back in spades.
“We had a question mark over the trip because he was walking on the run-in last year, but he’s actually finished strongly today.
“I think we’ve just caught him right as he’s in fabulous form and it’s all come off on the day.”
He added: “We could look at coming back here in April for the Topham, but realistically, that is another step up.”
Talking About You claimed a surprise victory in the williamhill.com Best Odds Guaranteed Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle.
Twice a winner from seven previous outings over obstacles, Sean Curran’s youngster produced a career-best performance in the hands of Harry Bannister to score by seven and a half lengths from Her Indoors.
“I didn’t think she’d handle the ground as well as she did, but she’s a hard one to get past,” said Bannister.
“The lads said she would hate this ground, but Sean just told me to try to get in as many breathers as I could and see how we get on.
“It’s great for a small team like that to get a good winner here.”
Straw Fan Jack proved far too strong for hot favourite Dargiannini in the opening William Hill Extra Place Races Daily Novices’ Hurdle.
The latter was an 8-11 chance to follow up a runaway victory in a Sedgefield bumper in October, but Straw Fan Jack (15-2) made much of the running under Richard Johnson and passed the post with 30 lengths in hand.
The success continues an excellent run of form for Brecon-based trainer Sheila Lewis, who said: “I’ve been a small trainer for the last four or five years, getting between two and three winners a season – this is my ninth winner of the season, with six horses in training.
“This horse is my stable star. Richard said there wasn’t going to be much pace in the race, so he said he’d go out and make the running.
“I don’t really have any plans. Richard mentioned the Sandown final, so we might aim for that.”
The Nick Alexander-trained Clan Legend was a 12-1 winner of the Follow @willhillracing On Twitter Handicap Chase, with Danny McMenamin taking over in the saddle from the trainer’s daughter Lucy, who suffered a serious back injury in a fall at Newcastle last month.
“I’m absolutely delighted. He’s a fourth or fifth generation home-bred, that’s his 10th win and it’s a very special place to do it,” said the Kinross handler.
“Danny gave him a brilliant ride, but it would have been lovely if Lucy had been riding him, as she should have been. She’s had an operation on her back and is getting better, but if she had a sense of humour it would be stretched a bit.
“It’s lovely to see the horse still progressing at the age of 10. I did think about running him over the National fences in the Grand Sefton, maybe I should have!”
Tom Lacey’s Kateson (5-1) dug deep to see off Eternally Yours by a nose in a thrilling climax to the William Hill Play Responsibly Handicap Hurdle.
Winning jockey Tom Scudamore said: “He had some very good form over hurdles a couple of years ago – he was only beaten by Champ and Getaway Trump in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
“Things haven’t worked out for him since then, but he showed a great attitude today and the cheek pieces have helped.”