Vieux Lion Rouge further boosted his claims for Aintree when outpointing Blaklion in a terrific duel in the Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock.
Vieux Lion Rouge took the Becher Chase over the famous National fences in December and was produced in prime condition by trainer David Pipe for his prep race for the world's greatest steeplechase.
Blaklion did his National prospects no harm, either, as he was well clear of the rest in a grinding battle.
Gas Line Boy made the running to three out where Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion took over to dominate the finish.
There was nothing between the pair over the last two of the 22 obstacles, but Vieux Lion Rouge (8-1) found that bit extra for Tom Scudamore to prevail by three and a quarter lengths from the 7-2 favourite. Vintage Cloud was 18 lengths back in third
Vieux Lion Rouge was slashed to 10-1 favourite from 20-1 with Paddy Power for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on April 8.