NIGEL Twiston-Davies feels Bristol De Mai has few questions to answer as he goes in search of a historic third win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The bold-jumping grey had been pigeon-holed as a soft-ground specialist after he failed to back up his incredible 57-length win in the race in 2017.
However, on good ground last year up against the Gold Cup winner Native River, Bristol De Mai showed his versatility when winning by four lengths.
He then ran a solid race in the Gold Cup when third to Al Boum Photo and Anibale Fly, his best run away from Haydock.
First run in 2005, this Grade One test was won four times by the legendary Kauto Star while, more recently, Cue Card was a three-time winner.
Unexpected things can happen. He has just run around there (Haydock) more times than anywhere else.Nigel Twiston-Davies
Victory today, however, would see Bristol De Mai become the first horse to win three successive renewals of this race.
And while the four-runner field is the smallest in the race’s history, Twiston-Davies is confident that Bristol De Mai’s proven course form – he’s unbeaten in all four starts at the venue – will be sufficient to deny rising star Lostintranslation.
“He was the third-best horse in England and Ireland at Cheltenham and those two Irish horses aren’t coming over so he should win,” a typically bullish Twiston-Davies said last night.
“Unexpected things can happen. He has just run around there (Haydock) more times than anywhere else. He is a very good horse and was third in the Gold Cup. I don’t think it is anything to do with Haydock. He is a good horse and it is a good race. There is nothing to do with track or the time of year it falls.
“It was good ground last year so I don’t think that is a problem. There is always more pressure when you are favourite. If you are underdog it sits much more pleasant, but we have got the supposed best horse in the race and hopefully he shows it.”
Twiston-Davies also runs Ballyoptic, in a race he won with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander in 2010.
Ballyoptic won at Chepstow before recording a career-best victory in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase at the turn of the month under the trainer’s son Sam.
“The real target for him will be the Grand National. He was going well when he fell in it last year,” added Twiston-Davies. “It was very pleasing last time. He has always been a nice horse. Last season everything went wrong as he had a couple falls, but he put that to bed and hopefully he will keep improving. He is definitely jumping better this season, but I think he is just growing up and learning.”
Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation, one of last year’s best novices, was imperious on his comeback run at Carlisle but will face a totally different test on Merseyside under Robbie Power.
“He is in good nick. I’m looking forward to his next step,” said the trainer’s son and assistant Joe who was in the saddle for Cue Card’s first win in 2013.
“He did everything we expected him to do at Carlisle and that worked out as lovely prep run for him and now he moves up into the highest league. I’m looking forward to running him.
“His novice form got a big boost with Defi Du Seuil winning at Cheltenham on Sunday and hopefully he can take the next step as well.
“He definitely looks sharper at home and he has lost a bit of his tummy.
“He managed to win and tighten up on his first start, which is good. I couldn’t be more pleased where we have got him.”
Rated just 1lb below Bristol De Mai is Paul Nicholls’ Ryanair Chase winner Frodon, and the champion trainer feels Bryony Frost’s mount has been underestimated.
“Frodon has a lot in his favour. It’s a small field, he’s had a run which we wanted him to have and at the end of the day he won a Ryanair and a Cotswold Chase last season,” said Nicholls.
Meanwhile, a fascinating card sees – from a Yorkshire perspective – Sue and Harvey Smith’s top hurdler Midnight Shadow seek his first win over obstacles in a graduation chase while Irish Roe, Peter and Lucinda Atkinson’s reappears in a handicap hurdle.