Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bristol De Mai leaves Haydock rivals floundering in his wake

Bristol De Mai ridden by Daryl Jacob clears the last fence to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Photo: Clint Hughes/PA
Bristol De Mai ridden by Daryl Jacob clears the last fence to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Photo: Clint Hughes/PA

Marcus Armytage

Bristol De Mai turned the Betfair Chase into a one-horse show at Haydock yesterday when, in heavy conditions, he came home 57 lengths - roughly three parts of a furlong - in front of Cue Card to continue an amazing run of Saturdays this autumn for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

The grey six-year-old made all the running - a theme of the day - under Daryl Jacob and, in conditions he is known to relish at a track he loves, he gradually began to draw clear of Cue Card, Outlander and Tea For Two, the winners of multiple Grade One races, up the straight. By the time he crossed the line still in third gear, he had made them look like selling platers.

His only mistake, at the second last, barely dented his momentum, while each of the last four fences were like mountains out of the mud for his toiling rivals, who, having clambered over the last, could barely raise a trot between them up the run-in. Cue Card found one final effort to grab second.

Bristol De Mai has always been talked of in terms of a Gold Cup horse by Twiston-Davies and, on the bare form of the Betfair, a 57-length beating of Cue Card means everything else might as well stay at home in March. With a quote of 14/1 for Cheltenham, bookmakers Betway certainly were not taking it literally.

However, though flattered by the margin, Simon Munir's gelding should not be underestimated come March, especially if it comes up testing. He can power through heavy ground.

The King George at Kempton on St Stephen Day, where Twiston-Davies will send him to chase the second leg of the £1m bonus for the triple crown, may not suit him quite as well as Cheltenham and it is unlikely to be as testing. But with the first leg in the bank, you get the feeling Twiston-Davies would go for the second leg even if it was the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin.

"I like Saturdays," the trainer proclaimed. And so he should. Bristol De Mai set the ball rolling when he won the Charlie Hall Chase at the start of the month, The New One won a big hurdle at Ffos Las and Splash of Ginge won last week's BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

"It's lovely - and we've got Cogry for the Hennessy [now the Ladbrokes Gold Cup] and Blaklion for the Becher Chase next weekend to keep it going. Training is all about planning. We want the money. We don't have masses of winners but we target the big prizes."

He added: "Bristol De Mai wasn't quite right before Cheltenham last season. It was a battle to get him there after he injured his off-fore fetlock at Newbury. He was only beaten by 20 lengths - maybe from six to seven he can improve 20 lengths."

Only Kauto Star in 2006 has won the Betfair and gone on to win a Gold Cup in the same season (he also won the King George that year) but Imperial Commander, the trainer's previous Betfair winner, came to Haydock after winning the Gold Cup in 2010 and he was all for comparisons. "He's definitely the Imperial Commander type - a big, strong, gorgeous horse," he said.

Jacob, who is retained by owners Munir and Isaac Souede, described him the grey as a wonderful horse. "We loved him from when he won the Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow first time out for us," he said. "He has a lovely turn of gear in this ground and is a good jumper, which is a massive help."

It completed an excellent day for Munir and Souede, owners who have invested a lot in the winter game in the last decade. Top Notch won a big chase at Ascot while Delire D'Estruval won the opener at Haydock.

"It's for days like this that you come into racing," said Munir. "We've had winners at the Festival but this is probably our biggest, particularly when the judge said '57 lengths' - I thought he meant 27. Daryl thought all the others had fallen!"

Despite teenager Harry Cobden reducing the aggregate age of Cue Card and his jockey significantly, his bid to equal Kauto Star's four wins never really looked on. He was being pushed along after a circuit, and although he came on the bridle again down the back, yesterday neither he nor anyone else was ever travelling like Bristol De Mai.

Min enjoyed a facile success on his first run since last Christmas when justifying prohibitive odds of 1/9 over fences at Gowran. The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old made all the running in the hands of Paul Townend and was never out of second gear in the three-runner Ladbrokes-sponsored chase.

The step up to two and a half miles was no problem for Min as he cantered 36 lengths ahead of Flaxen Flare in second.

It was a treble for Mullins and Townend after the earlier wins of Carter McKay (10/11 favourite) in the INH Stallion Owners EBFGF Maiden Hurdle and Sharjah (13/8 favourite) in the Join Gowran Park Racing Club Novice Hurdle.

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