Santini got the better of an exciting duel with Bristol De Mai in the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The two looked the class acts on paper for the Gold Cup trial and they pulled a long way clear of the others, lead by classy handicappers Top Ville Ben and De Rasher Counter.
For most of the race Bristol De Mai looked the happier of the two, jumping exuberantly out in front for Daryl Jacob.
From some way out Nico de Boinville was niggling on Santini, but when Bristol De Mai stumbled on landing over the third last, Santini was left in front.
However, a slightly slow leap at the penultimate obstacle from Santini allowed Bristol De Mai to retake the lead after jumping the last, looking sure to win at the course for the first time.
Nicky Henderson’s lightly-raced eight-year-old dug deep though, with Santini finding plenty to come home three and a half lengths clear.