Kevin Blake

Leading racing writer Kevin Blake looks back on the two big races from the weekend, the Betfair Chase at Haydock won by Lostintranslation and the 1965 Christy Chase at Ascot, where Cyrname took the scalp of Altior.

  • Monday 25 November
  • Blog
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 The Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday was perfectly poised as a test of Lostintranslation’s credentials as a contender in the staying chase division. He faced a particularly stern challenge in Bristol De Maiwho had produced top-class winning performances in each of the last two renewals of the race.

Such was the task that Lostintranslation faced on what was his first start in open Grade 1 company, the view was widely expressed that a creditable defeat in the Betfair Chase wouldn’t preclude him from still progressing into a leading contender in the staying chase division. As it transpired, Lostintranslation passed the test with flying colours and in tremendous style to boot. 

The first surprise was the riding tactics utilised on Lostintranslation. It wasn’t a surprise that Robbie Power didn’t want to mix it up on the front end with Bristol De Mai and/or Frodon, but given the seven-year-old had made most of the running in five of his seven starts over fences, it was surprising to see him ridden with exaggerated patience for much of the race.

Given the notable change in tactics and that Lostintranslation is often an enthusiastic traveller, it wasn’t a surprise that he was very much there in Power’s hands all the way off what was a rather steady pace on the clock. While one would ideally like to see a top-class staying chaser be a little bit more relaxed through his races, the hope is that that he will be when getting more cover and pace in front of him.

As had been the case on his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle, his jumping was a genuine joy to watch. It tends to be big, long, flashy, but ultimately inefficient and risky leaps that get people oohing and ahhing, but Lostintranslation’s style is far more worthy of plaudits. In the main he is neat and efficient, but when he meets a fence on a long stride, he is capable of the most wonderful fast and flat leaps.

He is athletic enough to not put himself in danger when he goes long and land running from them. When he gets in tight, he is clever enough to get himself up and over in as efficient a manner as possible.

The patience and confidence that Power showed throughout the race was quite something given the task that he seemed to face on paper. Just how much horse he had under him was made vividly clear approaching the third-last fence, as having seen a stride and asked him up, Lostintranslation all of a sudden went from being two lengths off the lead to upsides and challenging.

Lostintranslation wins the 2019 Betfair Chase
Lostintranslation and Robbie Power in action winning the Betfair Chase

Power revealed afterwards that he felt this was a mistake on his part and that he hadn’t planned to deliver his challenge that early. One very much gets the impression from his body language from this point that he really didn’t want to commit any more than he already had until after the run-in and this consequent negativity resulted in Lostintranslation getting in a little bit tight to the final two fences.

Despite the lost momentum, Lostintranslation had more than enough in reserve to pick up and put the race to bed on the run-in, flicking his ears all the time.

It was a performance that oozed class. While it was a race up the run-in, had Power waited a little bit longer in delivering his challenge, one strongly suspects Lostintranslation would have won with more authority.

Establishing just how high a level he ran to largely revolves around what level Bristol De Mai ran to. Given his fabulous record at the track, the fact that his jumping held up well bar getting a bit close to a handful along the way and that he pulled 25 lengths clear of a below-par Frodon gives encouragement that he might well have run relatively close to his official rating. 

Make no mistake, this was the performance of potentially the very best staying chaser around from Lostintranslation. He needs to do more to earn that crown, but he showed a set of tools on Saturday that will make him a formidable opponent for any of the other top contenders in the division.

What is also worth noting is that the significant improvement Lostintranslation showed on Saturday coincided with a switch to much more patient tactics which very much seemed to suit him. Given that the only other occasion where he was ridden with patience over a trip of three miles over fences saw him produce the second-most impressive performance of his career at Aintree last April, this must raise the quite remarkable possibility that there could be even more to come from him under such patient tactics, with a more strongly-run race seeming sure to show those tactics in an even better light.

The King George VI at Kempton is next for him. While three miles around a flat track shouldn’t hold any fears for him, some will no doubt point out that 12 of his 14 starts have been at left-handed tracks. That is a factual fact, but when one looks closely at those runs at Sandown and Carlisle, there is no significant evidence to suggest going that way round is an issue for him.

From the 33 fences he has jumped going that way, one could only pick out a handful where he was anything but straight through the air.

All told, Lostintranslation looks to be the real deal and the King George VI is setting up to be an absolute belter.


The other focus of attention on Saturday was the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, which brought together two of the highest-rated chasers in training in Altior and Cyrname.

While Cyrname looked to have plenty in his favour over the course and distance, the betting market for the race was quite remarkable. Experience tends to teach most that notably strong market moves in the 10 minutes before the off should be greatly respected. Thus, the dramatic extent to which Altior was backed and Cyrname drifted was screaming that major players were taking an extremely strong view, presumably based on something that wasn’t in the public domain.

As it transpired, whatever drove that market move proved to be wide of the mark. In a nutshell, the official handicapper’s assessment that Cyrname was a 1lb superior horse to Altior proved to be pretty close to the mark, but the main difference on the day between the two was their jumping.

Cyrname jumped particularly well in the main. While he was longer than ideal at the fourth and sixth fences, he was brilliant at the final two fences when he really needed them. In contrast, not for the first time Altior jumped a bit bigger than ideal and, as has been the case when he has run right-handed in the recent past, he jumped left at times.

Altior’s relative lack of speed through the air kept putting him on the backfoot, particularly in the closing stages, and he never looked like getting to grips with Cyrname. That was the main issue for Altior on the day, rather than any lack of stamina over the longer trip.

In terms of what the future holds for them, Cyrname is set to run in the King George VI at Kempton. While he should be just fine over that course and distance, he gives the strong impression of having enough pace and the necessary jumping technique to be a big player in the two-mile chase division if his connections fancied it.

As well as that, it seems ill-advised to assume that he needs to go right-handed. He is clearly a much-improved horse now compared to what he was back in 2017/18 when he last raced that way round and he is certainly worth examining at a left-handed track when the right opportunity presents itself.

Whichever way his connections point him, there is surely no doubt now that he is one of the very best chasers in training.

As for Altior, his connections have suggested that he will also be aimed for the King George VI at Kempton. There must be a temptation to revert to what they can know he does well back over the minimum trip, but there was nothing in his performance on Saturday to dissuade them from trying three miles with him.

It is just surprising that his connections are seemingly giving no consideration to the Savills Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, a race run at what would be a much more suitable track for him and likely be a less competitive contest than the King George.

Henderson has always seemed reluctant to have runners in Ireland prior to the Cheltenham Festival. This is illustrated by the fact that he has only had seven runners in Grade 1 races in Ireland prior to Cheltenham in the last decade, with Bob’s Worth in the Savills Chase being the only one of those that won.

Even with that in mind, that race seems such an attractive alternative for Altior that it surely should be at least considered. Entries close on Wednesday.

However, whichever route his connections choose to send him down, the possibility that Altior is on the downgrade has to be considered. He didn’t seem to ever be at his very best last season and it shouldn’t be forgotten that he will soon be 10 years of age.

For a horse that has had his physical issues over the years, a downturn in his performance wouldn’t be a surprise. Hopefully that won’t prove to be the case, but it has to be a possibility.

Kevin Blake
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