The tremendously tough Across The Bay pulled out all the stops to claim a thrilling Betfred Mobile Lotto Hurdle, better known as the Rendlesham, at Haydock.
Last seen finishing seventh under top-weight in the Welsh National at Chepstow, the 9-1 shot adopted his customary front-running tactics back over the smaller obstacles but appeared a sitting duck as he rounded the home turn.
Market principals Trustan Times and Kentford Grey Lady moved ominously well, while 2011 Rendlesham winner Cross Kennon was also bang there, and in a barnstorming finish Across The Bay dug deepest for Henry Brooke to take the Grade Two prize by a length and a quarter. Trustan Times was second.
The winning jockey said: "He's a bit older and bit wiser these days, but he's there when you need him. If you keep asking, he'll keep finding. He does seem to be still improving."
McCain added: "We tidied his wind up the day after the Welsh National and it confuses us a bit about where we go now. He's top-weight wherever he goes over fences, but I think that will have done him good."
The John Smith's Grand National at Aintree could be next up for Across The Bay and BetVictor left him unchanged at 40-1 for the world's most famous steeplechase.
Seymour Eric (7-2) could be Cheltenham-bound after securing his fourth win on the bounce in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle.
Winning trainer Martin Keighley said: "He destroyed them today. We'll see what mark he gets now. He could go for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham and he is in the Albert Bartlett as well."
Cottage Oak (9-4 favourite) streaked 13 lengths clear in the concluding CGA Foxhunter Trial.
8 December 2013Bright start for New Dawn
Twin lights up Hilly Way
Twin lights up Hilly Way
Durkan stroll for Arvika
Unioniste has Lexus aim
New One heading to International
Drowne in hospital after fall
Baby in running for Warwick
Moore sets sights on Kempton
Ex-Oxx ace Mofeed lifts Cup
Cloud and Lantern sunk in Mile
Kanaloa sizzles in Sprint
Dominant shocks The Fugue in Vase
Turner back in business
Faugheen in impressive strike
Flemenstar out of John Durkan
Unioniste claims Listed prize
Grugy great in Tingle Creek
V for victory for Henderson
Chance best in Becher thriller
Hinterland reigns in Henry VIII
Mullins strikes with Gitane
7 December 2013V for victory for Henderson
Twinlight out to show the Way
Wyck primed for big Aintree run
Dandino and Rock miss Vase run
Bec puzzler for Lavelle
Moore's Vino is vintage stuff
Mullins sets sights on Navan
Captain taking charge for Henderson
George plots Aintree gold rush
King out to reign in Henry VIII
Newcastle in talks over AW track
Sir champing at bit for Durkan date
Baby on board for Becher
6 December 2013Carberry sidelined for weekend
Dunaden 'back to his best'
Glance sights fixed on Cup glory
Strawbridge coy over Cloud future
Sire out to profit from Sacre blow
Queen awarded ROA honour
Three-month ban for Arnold
Contrite Butler must 'rebuild life'
Nicholls watching ground for Roque
Topper tests Future waters
Murphy hit by nine-day ban
Big field for Becher
Sacre forced out of Sandown return
Cadeaux team enjoying the ride
Lantern burning bright once more
5 December 2013Rasen survives wind scare
Festival switch for Mares' race
Sacre out of Tingle Creek
No luck for Jwala in Sprint draw
Aigles well ahead of fourth Cup bid
Rasen to check on wind
Butler considers ban response
Court team eyeing Huntingdon return
Oscar on course for Cheltenham
Cantlow in Cheltenham frame
Juddmonte "not for sale"
Noseda content with Grand journey
Cloud future hinges on Mile outcome
Road charts route towards Becher
Knight backs Somersby to shine