Connections of Bristol De Mai are hoping the mud-loving grey can make the most of favourable conditions and take the glory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock today.
The six-year-old showed he is a formidable opponent when he gets suitably soft ground when romping to victory by 22 lengths in the Peter Marsh Chase over the course in January.
Though the weather went against the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey in the spring, he gave a timely reminder of his talents when winning the Charlie Hall Chase on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby last month.
“He’s fine and I’m looking forward to him running,” said Twiston-Davies. “There’s horses like Outlander in there, but we’re happy to be going up there.”
Twiston-Davies’s assistant Carl Llewellyn reported the horse’s preparation to have gone without a hitch, ahead of the race that forms the first leg of the £1million Triple Crown bonus on offer should the winner add the King George and Gold Cup to victory on Merseyside.
He said: “He’s had a clear run since Wetherby. The ground’s come for him. He’s a good horse anyway, but on soft and heavy he’s probably even better.
Cue Card ... was a shorter price than us at Wetherby and just because he fell people have forgotten about him a little bit. It will be tough to beat him at his best.Nigel Twiston-Davies
“Cue Card’s a good horse. He’s done it all before. He was a shorter price than us at Wetherby and just because he fell people have forgotten about him a little bit. It will be tough to beat him at his best, but our horse has done nothing wrong and is going there in great form.”
Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, believes the horse’s liking for Haydock is a big plus.
“He’s in good form, it’s going to be soft and it is his track,” he said. “Nigel and I have always felt that his Gold Cup would be the Betfair Chase, that was his big race because it’s his favourite track.
“If he’s going to win a Grade One, we felt that would be the race all through the summer, so he’s been trained for the race and let’s hope it can happen.”
Standing in Bristol De Mai’s way is the aforementioned Cue Card, who bids to emulate Kauto Star by winning the Betfair Chase for a fourth time after previously being triumphant in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
The 11-year-old has to bounce back from his fall at Wetherby, but his trainer Colin Tizzard retains plenty of faith in his stable stalwart.
With Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John not lining up because of the ground, Tizzard is full of confidence.
“It’s a lovely opportunity for him to win his fourth Betfair Chase,” said the Dorset handler.
Cue Card’s tumble resulted in Paddy Brennan losing the ride to Harry Cobden.
Gordon Elliott is having a tremendous season in Ireland, with more than 100 winners to his credit already.
He sends Outlander from his base in County Meath following his impressive victory in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The nine-year-old showed there he was over the back problem that had bothered him since he landed the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last Christmas.
“He’s bouncing, he looks great and we couldn’t be happier with him,” said Elliott. “We got him back on track at Down Royal and Jack (Kennedy) gave him a great ride.
“We put the cheekpieces on him the first day in Punchestown and we were just happy that he jumped a bit better then. It was a bit disappointing, but I don’t think he was fit enough.
“He had an operation for kissing spines after Cheltenham and sometimes if a horse has had a problem, it can just take a run for him to think ‘things aren’t too bad’.
“He is a bit hit and miss, so hopefully he turns up on a going day. The heavier the ground, the better for him and we wouldn’t mind the rain. Every Grade One is a good race. Cue Card, when he’s on a going day he’s brilliant, and there is also Bristol De Mai.”
Tea For Two defeated Cue Card by a neck in the Betway Bowl at Aintree in April, but Nick Williams’s charge has to bounce back from a poor run in the Old Roan Chase at the Liverpool track last month.
Gary Moore’s Traffic Fluide was ahead of Tea For Two in fourth place that day and takes his chance in preference to running at Ascot.
Completing the sextet is Richard Hobson’s Shantou Flyer, who came home fifth in the Charlie Hall.