Weird Al became the new favourite for next month's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury with a win at the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
The eight-year-old beat Time For Rupert in the first major jumps prize to be staged since the death of trainer Ginger McCain.
It was also Weird Al's first start for Ginger's trainer son Donald.
McCain said: "I'm absolutely thrilled but it would be wrong for me to take all the credit."
Weird Al was racing for only the ninth time in the race which saw Diamond Harry pull out lame at the last minute.
Time For Rupert, having his first run since the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March, led from the start but was overtaken after the penultimate fence, with Weird Al eventually winning by three-and-a-half-lengths, Chicago Grey finishing third.
Weird Al was formerly in the care of Ian Williams, and McCain said: "He looked a million dollars when he came to me from Ian's about six to eight weeks ago.
"The owners felt he needed a change. Ian's a good friend so it wasn't easy. Good horses are good horses and Ian's been a help.
"This race had been the target before he came to me.
"The horse's problems have been well documented. He had a fracture before the SunAlliance (2010) and had his problems last year, he hasn't had a proper race since the start of last season.
"We'll get him back first before we think of the next step."