Ralston Road and Clever Cookie dead-heated for first in an exciting climax to the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup at York.
The 12-runner field were taken along at a fairly pedestrian pace by Alta Lilea in the early stages, with Ralston Road sitting fairly handily under apprentice Ronan Whelan, unable to claim his 3lb-allowance due to the conditions of the race.
In contrast, Clever Cookie was well out the back under Graham Lee, but as the pace warmed up three furlongs out nothing looked to be travelling better other than habitual flatterer Repeater.
Lee brought Clever Cookie wide to throw down a challenge to the leading group and looked as if he was going to get the upper hand 100 yards out, but to his credit Ralston Road fought back close home to force the share of the spoils.
Shwaiman kept on for third, a length and three-quarters back, with Rawaki clear of the rest in fourth.
Ralston Road will now head for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, with trainer Pat Shanahan saying of the successful Irish raider: "He's actually got some very good form as he ran a good race in last year's St Leger and he wasn't beaten far in a good Group Two at Meydan over two miles.
"We've always loved him and that's why. He's tough and genuine and stays very well. He'll probably be better on better ground."
Sky Bet cut Ralston Road from 66/1 to 40/1 for the Gold Cup as a consequence of this performance.
Niven has long had the Betfred Ebor in mind as a potential target for Clever Cookie but was quick to rule the big handicap out after this result.
He said: "He'll not go for the Ebor. Graham said he emptied out two out so he did well to dead-heat. He's had a hard race and he's probably not got the trip. We might come back for the John Smith's Cup, but we'll see what the handicapper does with him.
"He's got a touch of class and is a very, very good horse so we'll have to be careful with him."