Baltimore Rock (7-1) put himself in the frame for a crack at a possible £100,000 bonus after landing the William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown.
Hills offer the prize if the winner of the Imperial Cup goes on to triumph at the Cheltenham Festival and Baltimore Rock satisfied the first criteria as he saw off Gassin Golf by a length.
Tom Scudamore produced the David Pipe-trained winner with a perfectly-timed run to challenge Gassin Golf and the pair quickly pulled clear of the rest.
They jumped the last together, with Baltimore Rock drifting a little across to the rail on the run in, forcing Gassin Golf to switch to the outside.
However, no stewards inquiry was called and Baltimore Rock took the honours, with 3-1 favourite Vibrato Valtat back in third.
Pipe said: "It's a very sweet victory. He's always showed us a fair bit and jumps really well.
"We always thought he was better than he showed but when Tom schooled him in his latest piece of work, he jumped the best we've ever seen.
"He had to improve on the bare form but he's a handicapper's nightmare because he only just does enough."
Baltimore Rock is entered in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at the Festival next week and is rated an 8-1 chance with Hills for that contest.
However, Pipe is not certain his charge will make the cut regardless of the penalty he incurs for winning here.
He added: "He travels well but I'm not sure he will get in. We will enter him and see and it will be disappointing if he doesn't."
Meanwhile, John Queally made the trip from his Co Waterford base worthwhile when Gaillimh A Chroi gave him his first winner with his first runner at Sandown.
Partnered by Noel Fehily, the 9-2 shot showed guts aplenty to get the better of a protracted battle with Tara Mist in the Listed EBF Stallions/TBA Mares Standard Open NH Flat Race.
Queally said: "She won well at Gowran Park last time and needs soft ground, so we chanced coming here in the hope that she'd get placed and some black type.
"She would have won a point to point but we found she was in season afterwards and she's had a hard race here, so we might put her away. She'll jump a fence."