Bristol De Mai is looking for a third Betfair Chase win in a row at Haydock on Saturday.
Sean Raymond previews the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Ascot on Saturday, which could be headlined by a huge clash between Bristol De Mai and Lostintranslation...
The Betfair Chase remains a relatively young race in the grand scheme of the National Hunt world having been first run back in 2005, but it has certainly grown into one of the best contests around in the intervening 14 years.
Haydock in November is now the scene of one of the best Grade 1 races of the campaign and also the venue of the first genuine trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup each winter, which means it tends to be a cracking contest. Testing conditions tend to be guaranteed in Lancashire at this time of the year for the three mile and one furlong event, although the conditions at the time of writing were officially described as good to soft.
The Betfair Chase takes on added significance as the first leg of the famed Jumps racing Triple Crown, with any horse able to win the Betfair, the King George and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham Races in the same season picking up a cool £1 million for their connections. The animal that wins at Haydock this weekend will surely head straight to Kempton on Boxing Day for the second leg, and that does add an interesting angle to the season as we approach the Christmas period.
The phrase "horses for courses" gets banded about in sport on an almost daily basis, but it feels as if Bristol De Mai and Haydock are the pairing that most match that over-used cliche. The popular grey has made it his business to be brilliant at the Lancashire venue over the past few years, with two successive wins to his name in the Betfair Chase, and he deserves to be the favourite for the hat-trick as a result.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained star has walloped some top-class animals on his way to those two famous wins, and his Cheltenham handler will surely have him spot on for this weekend's assignment. Soft ground and the style of track in Lancashire seem to suit a horse who is perhaps unbelievably still only eight years of age and you would assume he remains at the peak of his powers.
A third-placed finish in the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in March proved once and for all that Bristol De Mai can do it away from Haydock, but there is no doubt that he relishes his visits to the North-West, and it is easy to see him being popped out in front on Saturday and failing to see another horse.
Bristol De Mai deserves to be the favourite this season, but he does face a new threat in the form of the exciting Lostintranslation, which does add an interesting dimension to the race.
The Colin Tizzard-trained horse impressed all last term as he proved to be one of the best staying chasers in the novice chasing division, and plenty are waiting to see if he can cut it at the top level against the more experienced animals. The seven-year-old impressed at Aintree when winning the Mildmay last back-end before returning at Carlisle earlier this month with a winning display in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase.
That will give the seven-year-old a potential fitness edge this weekend, which will please his supporters, and with many suggesting the horse as a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender in March, there is reason to believe that the favourite could come under pressure.
Frodon is not to be ignored either to complete a trio of exciting contenders this weekend, with the Paul Nicholls horse a brave winner of the Ryanair Chase last season at Prestbury Park. Connections have flirted with three miles before, indeed the horse win the Cotswold Chase back in January, but this is another step up in class at this trip for the horse, which means he might be best watched on this occasion, especially if the rain falls over the next 48 hours.
Ballyoptic is also taking his chance after his Charlie Hall Chase win, and will come into the equation if it turns into a genuine slog - but wouldn't have half the class of his stablemate Bristol De Mai on all known form.
The road to the 2020 Cheltenham Festival is a long one, but there are some fascinating stops on the way, including the Betfair Chase this weekend. We have a confirmed Haydock specialist and Grade 1 performer in Bristol De Mai taking on an exciting younger animal stepping up into open company in the form of Lostintranslation and it should be a cracking contest.
There is every chance that Lostintranslation makes up into the most likely Gold Cup winner from this race, but Haydock in November is a home game for Bristol De Mai and that means it is impossible to ignore the tried and tested class of the brilliant grey.
Saturday 23rd November 2019 - Betfair Chase - Bristol De Mai @ 6/5