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.
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