Silviniaco Conti has stamped himself a worthy successor to the incredible Kauto Star with a spring-heeled display to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls announced the retirement last month of legendary steeplechaser Kauto Star after a breathtaking career that included five King Georges, a brace of Cheltenham Gold Cups and four wins in the Grade One Betfair Chase.
While it is fanciful to believe Silviniaco Conti can reach those heights, the six-year-old leapt to second-favouritism for the Gold Cup with most firms under a typically well judged front-running ride from Ruby Walsh, to leave Nicholls beaming from ear to ear.
The runners were led down to the start by the 12-year-old Kauto Star and his faithful head lad Clifford Baker, receiving great applause from the Haydock crowd.
Walsh let his mount set what was a fairly sedate gallop for the first circuit.
Long Run, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who was left chasing Kauto Star's shadow in the race 12 months ago, was right on the leader's tail turning for home.
But Silviniaco Conti continued to pour it on in front and galloped all the way to the line after the final fence to beat the favourite by 2-1/2 lengths.
Nicholls said the horse may not run again between until next March.
"I said if he won today we'd go for the Gold Cup and that is the plan. You couldn't leave him in his box on Gold Cup day after that performance," he said.
"I'm not going to rush him and I might go straight to the Gold Cup with him.
"He wants to be fresh and I'm not going to run him through the winter in the mud.
"Kauto won this as a six-year-old and went on to win the Gold Cup in the same season, and this horse is very, very exciting. He jumps, he has speed and he stays very well."