Trend in fashion at Sandown
Nick Gifford admitted to harbouring Cheltenham Festival hopes after On Trend stayed on gamely to score at Sandown Park.
Last Updated: 02/02/13 5:26pm
Four of the winner's rivals hold Grand National entries but it was the winner, returned at 7/1, who showed most stamina under Tom Cannon to master Viking Blond by eight lengths, having taken up the running ahead of the Pond Fence.
Gifford said: "I've finally found the right trip and ground for him and he loved the stiff Sandown finish.
"He's had knee problems and got two fences wrong down the back. He'll have to have an entry for Cheltenham after that and it will probably be the Kim Muir or the JLT."
Jonjo O'Neill's Eastlake (11/2) won the opening Betfred "The Home Of Goals Galore" Handicap Chase at Sandown.
Richie McLernon's mount held off Lord Singer by six lengths with Lancetto half a length away in third.
The front two had the race to themselves some way from home and Eastlake nearly gave it away with a small mistake before reasserting at the final obstacle.
The market leaders Kudu Country and Toubab were both disappointing, the former being pulled up after a series of jumping errors.
O'Neill said: "Richie gave him a lovely ride and he seems to love the ground. He's had problems with his knees and joints and the easier ground helps and he jumped well.
"I wasn't thinking about the novices' handicap chase (Pulteney Land Investments) at Cheltenham but I will now."
Trainer Dr Richard Newland was a notable absentee as his Dashing George (4/1) made every post a winning one to land the Betfred Mobile Sports Veterans' Handicap Chase by nine lengths from favourite Plein Pouvoir.
Winning pilot Joshua Moore, 21, said: "He appreciated that sort of ground and he has good course form, having won over further, so we knew that we could make use of him.
"He is genuine and jumping is his main point. I won two on another horse for Dr Newland last season."
In-form trainer Venetia Williams kept up her good run with a double.
Kapga De Cerisy emulated Dashing George to make virtually all in the Betfred "Double Delight" Novices' Handicap Chase.
The winner, partnered by Aidan Coleman, did not look a novice as he put in some exemplary jumps to justify 11/8 favouritism and hold off Itoldyou by five lengths.
Williams enthused: "He put in a fantastic round of jumping out on his own practically all the way. He's a nice young horse."
Shangani (6/5 favourite) won the Betfred "Hat Trick Heaven" Handicap for the same combination by seven lengths.