Lostintranslation moved to the head of ante-post lists for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup after getting the better of defending champion Bristol De Mai in a thrilling climax to the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
A brilliant winner of the Grade One contest in each of the past two seasons, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai was aiming to become the third three-times winner on Merseyside – after the great Kauto Star, who won four renewals, and the popular Cue Card.
The grey faced just three rivals for his hat-trick bid – and was the 5-4 joint-favourite along with the up-and-coming Losintranslation, who had made a fine start to his season at Carlisle three weeks ago, albeit in lesser company.
As is his wont, Bristol De Mai was soon bowling along at the head of affairs – and some prodigious leaps kept the pressure on those in behind.
His Charlie Hall Chase-winning stablemate Ballyoptic and the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon were both under pressure before the home turn, but having been ridden patiently at the rear for much of three-mile journey by Robbie Power, Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation moved ominously into contention early in the straight.
Bristol De Mai – unbeaten in four previous visits to Haydock – did not give up his crown without a fight, but Lostintranslation dug deep on the run-in to emerge victorious by a length and a half under a jubilant Power.
Tizzard said: “I’ve never had one jump better than this fella. He’s just a lovely horse and we make sure we look after him as they don’t come along very often.
“He’s immaculate at his fences – he makes the right shape. He just got in tight to the second last and was in a heap. Bristol De Mai might have even headed him. We didn’t know what he was going to find, but he kept going right to the line.
“He stays well and has got the pace for two miles. He’s got everything in front of him.”
Paddy Power cut Lostintranslation to 3-1 from 5-1 for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, while he is the 5-1 favourite from 8-1 for the Gold Cup at Prestbury Park in March.
If he does go on to win those two races, he will have completed the Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown, which yields a £1million bonus
“The plan at the start of the season was to have a prep race, then come for this and to have a go at the £1million bonus, so he’ll go for the King George next,” Tizzard confirmed.
“Whether we need to run him between the King George and Cheltenham, we don’t know yet – we want to go for the Gold Cup.
“Kempton is the plan, definitely – it may suit him more. He’s won here today and done it well against Bristol De Mai. It’s only two years ago he beat Cue Card by 57 lengths, so this is his track.
“Our horse has got the pace and he can jump and we’ve seen today he can grind it out on good to soft ground – this horse has got everything.”
Robbie Power has already ridden one Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in 2017 victor Sizing John – and feels Lostintranslation has all the attributes to make him a serious contender.
He said: “It’s no secret how much we thought of this horse. Today was D-Day – he was stepping into the big boys’ league.
“They don’t come much bigger than Bristol De Mai round Haydock, so we were going to find out plenty about his Gold Cup credentials. The horse has done the talking and has answered them all.
“I couldn’t believe how well he was travelling. He was in his comfort zone the whole way. He’s had a tough race, but it’s six weeks to the King George which is probably ideal. He’ll be freshened up and he’s only seven, so roll on Kempton.
“Sizing John was a good jumper. They don’t come better than him, but this horse has a lot of similarities in that he jumps well and has a great cruising speed.
“Those are the two main attributes you need for a Gold Cup contender.”
Twiston-Davies felt the ground did not help Bristol De Mai in his quest for a hat-trick of Betfair victories.
He said: “The weather has done for us. Things weren’t there to suit us today.
“Having not won this, we’ll probably not go to Kempton.
“This is quite a fast track now on good ground today. We’ll probably leave Kempton. We haven’t got the £1million to collect. I don’t know. We’ll talk to the owners.”