Clever Cookie overcame fears about the ground being too quick for him to run out a tenacious winner of the 2016 renewal.
Peter Niven had reservations about running his star stayer in the first race in the Long Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series because of the good to firm going but was left celebrating a thrilling triumph.
The 1m6f contest was steadily-run and developed into something of a sprint after habitual front-runner Flying Officer, the favourite, was withdrawn shortly before the start after parting company with Frankie Dettori and galloping loose.
PJ McDonald, standing in for Daniel Tudhope, injured in a fall at York the previous day, was short of space for a while aboard Clever Cookie as the race reached its climax but once in the clear the 5-2 chance galloped on gamely to prevail by half a length.
Curbyourenthusiasm, held up in rear for much of the journey, kept on well to claim the runner-up spot off Second Step, who started 10-11 favourite.
“It’s a massive feeling for me as horses like this for me to ride are few and far between,” said McDonald, who was enjoying his first taste of QIPCO British Champions Series glory. “To be able to show that if you give me the animal I can get the job done is a great confidence boost.
“I was worried for the first half of the race we were going too slow. The only saving grace was he was completely asleep underneath me.
“When I gave him a little squeeze to pick up, he changed his legs and I thought he wasn’t going to like the ground, but when he knuckled down he really got to the line well.”
Clever Cookie was winning at York for the fourth time and gaining consolation for his narrow defeat at the hands of Flyng Officer in the Long Distance Cup on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October.
“It’s absolutely marvellous,” Niven said. “They’ve dawdled away and that shouldn’t have suited us and the ground shouldn’t have suited us.
“To be fair, he’s always been able to go on decent ground, I’ve just been worried about him. They put a drop of water on last night and that encouraged me to run. He’s overcome loads of obstacles and he’s shown what he’s worth.”
His pride and joy was wearing first-time cheekpieces but Niven said: “I don’t think they made the slightest bit of difference.”