DARYL Jacob hopes patience will be rewarded when defending champion Bristol De Mai lines up in the £100,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase – Wetherby’s feature race of the year.
The former Grand National-winning jockey believes the lightly-raced seven-year-old is still to reach his full potential after being impressed by the grey’s form on the gallops at the stables of trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
After Bristol De Mai beat stablemate Blaklion in a hard-fought finish to last year’s Charlie Hall, Jacob’s mount then turned Haydock’s Grade One Betfair Chase into a one-horse race.
It was as good as it got last season – Bristol De Mai was well beaten by Might Bite in Kempton’s King George Chase when expected by many to put up a big challenge and could only finish third to Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red in the Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase.
The French-bred horse was then runner up to Might Bite in Aintree’s Betway Bowl at the Grand National meeting, but Jacob believes Wetherby’s configuration – a flat and galloping left-handed track – does play to the strengths of Bristol De Mai who runs in the colours of leading owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
“He’s in great form and we’re looking forward to getting him out,” Jacob told The Yorkshire Post. “He needs a run and he won the Charlie Hall last year on the way to the Betfair. He’s a very good horse on his day and Flat left-handed tracks suit him.”
Jacob, who won the 2012 Grand National on Neptune Collonges and is sponsored by Leeds-based Sky Betting & Gaming, says people forget that Bristol De Mai is still relatively young for a steeplechaser after moving from France to Britain towards the end of 2014.
“He’s a big horse and came over from France as a three-year-old,” says Jacob who is hoping the going is not too quick at Wetherby following an unseasonably dry summer and autumn.
“He has taken a bit of time to mature. He just hasn’t been strong enough and that’s why we have deliberately taken our time. He’s still a very young horse. We have looked after him and, please God, we will have lots more opportunities with him.”
That said, Jacob believes he – and the horse – might have been slightly flattered by their 57-length win in the Betfair Chase which was one of the largest winning margins ever recorded in a Grade One race.
Though the performance looked spectacular to racegoers, Jacob has closely analysed the form of the race which was run on heavy ground. “He’s three from three there and he got in a lovely rhythm. The ground was right for him,” he reflected.
“He jumped and he galloped and he handled conditions best of all on the day. I don’t think horses like Cue Card and Outlander ran to their best. Visually, he looked impressive but maybe horses behind weren’t at their best.
“Hopefully the ground at Wetherby will be good to soft and safe. I’m looking forward to it.”
The same applies to Colin Tizzard’s former King George hero Thistlecrack – connections hope forecast rain arrives at the track where watering is still taking place to maintain good ground.
Meanwhile, Jacob says the Bristol De Mai team are due to be represented by Wholestone in the West Yorkshire Hurdle – an early season test for three mile hurdlers – which is expected to feature Jamie Snowden’s Monbeg Theatre. The latter won at Wetherby’s season-opening meeting last month and Snowden said: “We feel it is worth having a go at one of these graded races. Hopefully, he can go close on Saturday and make the options for us going forward a lot easier.”