Bryony Frost, whose finest hour came with victory in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham in March, enjoyed an exhilarating round as the bold-jumping Present Man raced prominently and saw off all-comers to land a thrilling victory in the Badger Ales Trophy.
The win was particularly poignant for the 22-year-old Frost, whose father Jimmy won the race on Coome Hill 21 years ago. She has become part of the furniture at Dicheat, where Paul Nicholls trains, and enjoyed another fine day aboard Black Corton – a horse she is unbeaten on in four runs – at Cheltenham's Showcase meeting last month.
The Grand National is now the target for the Nicholls-trained seven-year-old, who was introduced at 33-1 for Aintree by Coral.
Present Man, an 8-1 chance, was settled in behind the leaders as Yala Enki took up the lead, who tended to jump left for Liam Treadwell.
Alfie Spinner and bet365 Gold Cup winner Henllan Harri were among the pace-setters with Mr Mix, who was sent off the 6-1 favourite, barely sighted as he raced in second-last for most of the journey.
Fox Appeal, Theatre Guide and Pilgrims Bay all travelled eye-catchingly into the contest, but it was 12-1 shot Final Nudge – who notably fell when in contention for the Midlands National last season and raced out wide – who emerged as the chief threat.
The pair were locked in battle over the final few fences but Present Man, who was completing a double for Nicholls after the win of Modus in the earlier novice chase, gave everything for Frost and prevailed by a head. Theatre Guide was eight lengths back in third at 16-1, with Southfield Theatre picking up fourth at 12-1.
Nicholls said: "There is only one race for him now and that is at Aintree next April – I think a race like that will suit him as he jumps so well and that is his longer term target."
He added: "He's the horse who perfectly illustrates that Rome was not built in a day as he has been a project for the last couple of seasons – we fancied him for the race last year but he unluckily unshipped Jack Sherwood at the second fence.
"This year he has really matured and grown up and as Bryony rode him to win over hurdles last time, she kept the ride and she has given him an absolute peach as he jumped and kept galloping for her."
The race produced its fair share of theatre, and Frost said: "It's a bit special to win the race that my father won as a jockey 21 years ago and I couldn't be more happy to do it for Mark and Tessa [Woodhouse, owners] as they have given me the chance to ride the horse.
"It's brilliant for them as Mark is the chairman of the sponsoring brewery Hall And Woodhouse."
Present Man is unchanged at 33-1 for Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy – formerly the Hennessy – with Paddy Power.