Jockey Charlie Deutsch claimed his first Cheltenham triumph since being released from prison as Aso won the Handicap Chase at the New Year’s Day meeting.
The 22-year-old rider returned to action in November after serving part of a 10-month jail sentence for dangerous driving while over the limit and escaping police custody
Top weight Aso justified 3-1 favouritism for trainer Venetia Williams and helped Deutsch put a painful 2018 behind him.
“I am surprised. I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. I’ve just tried to carry on as I was and see what would happen,” he said of returning to racing after leaving jail.
In front of a crowd of more than 26,000, Deutsch enjoyed his fourth win from his last six rides.
“Luckily Venetia has supported me brilliantly, the horses have come into form and it’s just everything you want,” he added.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for that horse. He’s always had plenty of ability, and it’s pretty special riding a winner here. I grew up not far away so it’s just brilliant. It’s a magical place.”
Deutsch was arrested after being stopped for a breath test after a night out in Cheltenham with other jockeys.
Police found he was 14 micrograms over the legal limit – but before they could detain him he ran back to his car and drove off at speeds of more than 100mph.
On his release from prison on licence, he told the Racing Post: “I’ve met a lot of people and seen a lot of things I would never have done in my normal life and I’ve learned huge life lessons which have made me a much better person.
“I deeply regret what I did and I needed to go to prison for it, as it was very wrong. It was just a moment of madness.”
Aso won by two lengths in a 1-2 for female trainers, with Happy Diva the runner-up for Kerry Lee, and may now be aimed at the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Elsewhere, Al Boum Photo gave trainer Willie Mullins a 1-2-3 and another Cheltenham Gold Cup option after taking the Savills Chase at Tramore under Ruby Walsh.
The seven-year-old had won the Grade One Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday before dramatically exiting another top-level contest at the Punchestown Festival.
It was a happier partnership for Walsh and the winner – beating stablemates Total Recall and Invitation Only – than at Cheltenham in March 2018 when a fall saw the jockey suffer a serious leg injury.