A decade ago, a Cheltenham Gold Cup billed as a decider between 2008 hero Denman and 2009 victor Kauto Star was won by the largely unconsidered Imperial Commander. That in itself was a huge shock but what made it all the more remarkable was the fact the party spoiler won the biggest race of the Festival having finished 64 lengths behind Kauto Star when fifth in the King George on his previous start.
Turnarounds don’t come much more dramatic.
That said, he wasn’t the first horse to disappoint at Kempton before going on to land the Gold Cup later that season.
For instance, Looks Like Trouble never went a yard when pulled up in the 1999 King George but that listless effort didn’t stop him winning the Gold Cup the following March.
A year earlier, See More Business did the same while Mr Mulligan ran out an emphatic winner of the 1997 Gold Cup having fallen in the King George the previous Christmas.
More recently, Don Cossack landed the 2016 Blue Riband having also come to the grief in the King George earlier that season.
This trip down memory lane is relevant when it comes to assessing Lostintranslation’s prospects in today’s Gold Cup. There’s no denying Colin Tizzard’s charge was a bitter disappointment in the King George. Nor is there any denying that that shocking effort requires a lot of forgiving.
However, take that run out of the equation he’d be battling for favouritism.
It shouldn’t be forgotten how impressive he was when lowering the colours of Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase on his preceding start. That was a fine effort but it wasn’t his only one.
On his first go over an extended trip last April, Lostintranslation put Topofthegame firmly in his place, winning an Aintree Grade One by six lengths.
A month earlier the same Topofthegame had got the better of both Santini and Delta Work in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
Santini and Delta Work are now both shorter in the Gold Cup market than Lostintranslation, despite the fact that, like Lostintranslation, both horses have one disappointing effort to their name this season.
Lostintranslation will obviously need a career-best display to prevail today but he’s had a wind op since his Kempton flop, has been given plenty of time to recover from it, and possesses the slickest jumping technique in today’s line-up. If Robbie Power can get him into an early rhythm, he could take quite a bit of stopping.
Santini and Delta Work are obvious dangers who should relish the searching stamina test a Gold Cup provides while reigning champion Al Boum Photo has been kept fresh for his title defence and looks sure to put up a bold defence of his crown.
Of the remainder, Kemboy doesn’t jump well enough and probably needs better ground, Presenting Percy has shown little since winning the 2018 RSA Chase in brilliant style, Clan Des Obeaux didn’t stay last year and looks unlikely to do so 12 months on while the other five horses in the line-up simply aren’t good enough.
The opening race, the JCB Triumph Hurdle, looks an absolute cracker but Solo was wildly impressive when cruising to victory in a Kempton Grade Two last month, a stunning effort that led Paul Nicholls to compare his new recruit to Ditcheat legend Master Minded.
This will be a huge test of his credentials but he may be able to pass it.
History says we should expect the unexpected in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, a race that produced a 50-1 winner last year and a 33-1 victor in 2018.
That, coupled with the poor form of the Philip Hobbs team this week, bodes badly for Thyme Hill but last year’s Champion Bumper third has done nothing wrong in three starts over hurdles this season and should relish this step up in trip.
A big run seems guaranteed.
Dan Skelton has an incredible record in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle, winning three of the last four renewals of this fiendishly tricky Grade Three.
As Skelton’s sole representative, 2018 winner Mohaayed obviously warrants huge respect but narrow each-way preference is for Stolen Silver, who won at Haydock in January and made eye-catching late progress after the last flight to finish eighth in the Betfair Hurdle last month.
That suggests a stiff finish like the one he’ll encounter today will really suit and, granted luck in running, he could play a part at the business end of proceedings.
Elsewhere, the revitalised Minella Rocco, runner-up in the 2017 Gold Cup, gets the vote in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup, Greaneteen looks the right favourite in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase while The Bosses Oscar can give Gordon Elliott victory in the finale, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
Darren Norris' best bets
2.10: Stolen Silver (E/W)
2.50: Thyme Hill
3.30: Lostintranslation (Nap)
4.10: Minella Rocco
5.30: The Bosses Oscar (NB)