Gold Cup hope Santini had to pull out all the stops to scramble to a narrow victory in the Listed Virgin Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown Park.
Four took part in this three-mile contest, including the highly-regarded Santini, runner-up in last season’s RSA Novices’ Chase.
The race got underway with Now McGinty leading Santini and Steely Addition, with last season’s bet365 Gold Cup winner Talkischeap, sat in last.
Santini came to join Now McGinty and over the fourth, jumped into a momentary lead.
There was no change in the order, as Now McGinty took the quartet into the home straight, with the Pond Fence omitted, due to the angle of the sun.
The field closed up as they passed the winning post, with a circuit to race.
Now McGinty took them up the Sandown hill and onto their last circuit, with a length lead over Santini, with Steely Addition third and Talkischeap a close-up fourth.
The leader moved two lengths up at the first, where Santini was not so fluent.
At the first fence down the back straight, Santini jumped alongside the leader again and this pair moved five lengths clear as they raced to the water jump.
Over the Railway Fences, Santini and Now McGinty were as one, before the former went on. All the time, Talkischeap moved closer.
All four were still in touch turning for home and Now McGinty had fought his way back in front, with Nico De Boinville niggling at Santini.
Two out and Santini went on but he was under pressure and didn’t draw away from Now McGinty at the last.
The pair battled all the way up the hill, with Santini idling against a willing rival.
In a desperately tight finish, Santini got up by about a head from Now McGinty, with the pair a long way clear of Talkischeap and Steely Addition.