Barry Geraghty's instinct proved razor-sharp as his choice Triolo D'Alene gave himself and trainer Nicky Henderson their second consecutive Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
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Following on from subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth a year ago, the 20/1 chance is viewed as more of a Crabbie's Grand National type but Geraghty still preferred him over stablemate Hadrian's Approach, an early faller.
Ironically the last jockey to ride two in a row was Paul Nicholls in the mid 1980s, and he saddled the horse who got closest to Triolo D'Alene in Rocky Creek, who was beaten two and three-quarters of a length.
Imperial Commander, who was eventually pulled up and now heads for an honourable retirement, looked younger than his 12 years as he set the pace with Highland Lodge for more than a circuit of the major winter handicap.
Katenko was another to blunder away his chance but others moving into the void were Invictus, eventual third Theatre Guide and the last-minute gamble and 11/2 favourite Our Father, who gave his supporters a brief moment of hope only to fade away again over the final couple of fences.
Triolo D'Alene cruised into contention but was pressed over the last by Rocky Creek, who was bidding for an emotional success for the Johnson and Stewart families but had no more left to give on the run-in.
Champion trainer Henderson, who also landed the 2005 running with Trabolgan, had been worried about a few of his string after a heap of seconds and a notable defeat for the hotly-tipped West Wizard, but had been reassured by the victory of his Champion Hurdle hope My Tent Or Yours at Newcastle an hour earlier.
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"Four or five days ago I was in despair, but a couple of things go right and the world suddenly seems a brighter place," he said. "After he won the Topham at Aintree last season we started to think about the National, and we will think about it.
"Barry has been begging me all year to save him for the National and we were looking at Aintree next weekend. I didn't do what I was told, but the Hennessy is very special."
Geraghty admitted it had been a hard call between the pair but he would have been picking himself up off the floor if he had swerved the other way.
"It was the toss of a coin - I really fancied both of them," he said. "Sadly Nico (de Boinville) was given no chance on (Hadrian's Approach). On that ground and on a stiff track, the horse finds it so easy."
Andy Stewart, joint-owner of Rocky Creek, said: "I thought he ran very well and was just beaten by a better horse. The idea is to go for the Welsh National at Chepstow (December 28), but Aintree is the big target."
The successful six-year-old won the Topham Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree last season and Sky Bet make Triolo d'Alene a 25/1 shot for the 2014 running of the Crabbie's Grand National.
"Although Triolo d'Alene's victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup will have done his handicap mark no good, his experience of the big Aintree fences will stand him in good stead should connections decide to have a crack at the Grand National next year," said Sky Bet spokesman Michael Shinners.