Top Notch warmed up for the Peterborough Chase with a determined effort to claim the Bet And Watch At Virgin Bet Handicap Chase at Aintree.
Nicky Henderson’s classy dual-purpose performer made the running for his seasonal debut ahead of next month’s Huntingdon showpiece which he won in 2017, but looked booked for minor honours when tackled by Vision Des Flos and Roksana.
The eight-year-old got his second wind after Roksana hit the final flight and battled on dourly for Nico de Boinville to strike by a neck from the latter, with Vision Des Flos another neck away in third.
The win gave Henderson and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede an across the card big-race double with Fusil Raffles lifting the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
“I have to look after him. He’s been an absolute stable stalwart since he was a juvenile,” said De Boinville of the 2-1 winner.
“He’s never missed a day and it’s a pleasure to get a win on the board with him.
“He took a bit of a blow between two out and the last. He missed the last slightly and he found more.
“He battled his way back to the front.”
Henderson’s representative David Minton said: “He probably needed that. It was his prep run for the Peterborough.”
Top Notch was given a quote of 25-1 for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with Betfair.
Dan Skelton said of Roksana: “We’ve been second here three times, it’s frustrating but the winner is a very good horse.
“She did hit the last. It was the wrong time for it to happen. She’ll improve.
“I think at that point it looked like she might go on and win, but the line is in one place.”
Gold Cup favourite Kemboy was flag-bearer in blue and white colours.
Murphy sets sights on Sandown.
Clonmel Oil success sees star chaser back on track.
Fragile hurdler missed last season.
Saturday prospects hinge on Friday inspection.
Queen’s granddaughter joins racecourse committee.
Favourite Slate House also among 20 declared for big handicap.
All go as Italian fits Lingfield, Japan and Hong Kong into schedule.
Course to hold precautionary check at 3pm on Thursday.
Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo may start at Tramore again.