Four-year-old Unioniste, who only secured a place in the final line-up when another horse was pulled out on Friday morning, took the £100,000 Paul Stewart IronSpine Charity Challenge Gold Cup at Cheltenham in emphatic style.
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The 15/2 chance was relatively easy to back in the final minutes before the race, but always travelled powerfully under conditional jockey Harry Derham, the nephew of winning trainer Paul Nicholls.
Unioniste pulled clear alongside favourite Walkon on the run to the second-last fence, but once again recent Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-up Walkon had to settle for second place as the winner edged ahead from that point.
"He jumped fantastically, he handled the ground and turning in I was always hopeful that we were going to pick up and win," said Derham. "I was always conscious that he was just a four-year-old but he looked to have everything in his favour and so it proved."
Nicholls added: "I was pleased with his handicap mark and he knows how to jump, I thought he might not get a chance in a race like this again.
"Harry gave him a peach of a ride and it's great for him to win a race like this."
Referencing the much-publicised departure of Kauto Star from his yard, Nicholls went on: "I can assure you I've never had a more embarrassing or unenjoyable week like that in my life.
"I apologise for everything that has gone on and I've never been more embarrassed, so to end it with a win like this is great. Onwards and upwards.
"I backed him last week at 12s but I had to sweat a bit over whether he'd get in. He'll have a month off now, I've got novice chasing to go back to if I want and he'll have an entry for the RSA, but the big plan was today."
There was a sad post-script to the race with winner's stablemate Cristal Bonus sustaining fatal injuries when breaking down in the early stages.