Cotswold Chase Tips: Bristol is in another postcode

Bristol De Mai was a fine third in last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Bristol De Mai was a fine third in last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Nick Seddon has taken a look at Saturday’s Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham, which is seen as a key indicator for the Cheltenham Gold Cup…

It’s been a good while since the Cotswold Chase has produced a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, with the Kim Bailey-trained Master Oats being the last horse to win both races in the same season all the way back in 1995. 

Admittedly, there have some been some smart winners in the meantime, including a Gold Cup winner in See More Business and two Grand National heroes in Neptune Collonges and the late, great Many Clouds, but this is the first time in a while that it has felt like a bona fide Gold Cup trial. 

That, perhaps, is down to the fact that this year’s staying chasing division is a particularly wide-open one, but a handful of the nine-strong field will feel they have the necessary credentials to lay down a claim for Jumps racing’s showpiece come March. 

The market is headed by a chaser with a particularly strong reputation in Santini, who has only made one appearance so far this term, winning a listed contest at Sandown back in November. He was particularly unimpressive that day, making hard work of defeating the Stuart Edmunds-trained Now McGinty, and we haven’t seen him since. 

He enjoyed an excellent campaign as a novice last term, however, winning a Grade 2 contest at Newbury and placing in back-to-back Grade 1 races, including the RSA Chase at the Festival, and has been touted as a serious Gold Cup contender this term by some camps. As such it would be no surprise to see him produce a much more finely-tuned performance this time around, though he’s short enough in the betting here considering he’s facing several Grade 1-winning chasers, and is best watched at the prices. 

One place and just shy of two lengths behind Santini in the RSA was Delta Work, whose participation has yet to be completely confirmed, but if he does line up he would do so on the back of victory in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown last month. Like Santini, he was a smart novice last term, winning three races at Grade 1 level, with the only blot on his copy coming at the Cheltenham Festival. At first glance, the form of his Savills win looks particularly strong, considering he took the notable scalps of the likes of Road To Respect, Kemboy and Presenting Percy, though the combination of the bunched finish that day and the fact that the latter two are still very much finding their fitness means he will need to prove that form to be no fluke here. 

An interesting contender is Top Ville Ben, who represents the flourishing Phil Kirby yard. He arrives here on the back of a clear-cut success in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, a victory which has perhaps forced him into Graded company, considering the handicapper put him up 10 lb to an official rating of 164 as a consequence. Connections are suddenly eyeing up a tilt at the Gold Cup, and he deserves his chance to prove his credentials. Admittedly, he’ll need more than he showed when fifth in another Gold Cup trial in November - the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby - though the key to him seems to be settling in his races, and he showed definitive improvement on that front on his most recent outing. It’s worth noting that he got within six and a half lengths of Lostintranslation when third in a Grade 1 novice at Aintree last season, and a similar performance here would put him right in the mix.

Another improving type is De Rasher Counter for the Emma Lavelle team, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time out - a race with a track record of producing smart staying chasers. He did so off an official mark of 149, meaning that he’ll need more if he’s to live up to the likes of Native River, Many Clouds and Bobs Worth - who’ve all won the Ladbrokes in the last ten years - but there could be more to come from him yet in just his second season over fences. Also moving out of handicap company is Mister Whitaker, who won a valuable Grade 2 handicap over two and a half miles here back in April. A regular at Cheltenham, he showed plenty to work  on when fifth over that same trip here again on New Year’s Day, and he’s another who could have more to offer yet.

One with a slightly different profile is Slate House, who retains his novice status this term after failing to pick up a success in four starts last season. He’s effectively a second-season chaser, and has looked an improved model so far for the Colin Tizzard team after a sticky last couple of years, winning three of his four starts. The one blot on his copy came in the BetVictor Gold Cup over two and a half miles here in November, and he would likely have won if staying on his feet. He’s since shown his class by winning the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, a win which has seemingly left his connections at a crossroads about his spring targets. This performance will likely decide whether he goes for the Gold Cup or the RSA Chase, and it would be no surprise to see him go close. 

However, the one who makes most appeal is Bristol De Mai. A top-class performer on his day, he’s long been considered something of a Haydock Park specialist thanks to his excellent record at the track and back-to-back wins in the Betfair Chase in 2017 and 2018, but he’s shown plenty of ability elsewhere, and broke that misconception when a fine third in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. He suffered defeat on his only start so far this term, being out battled by Lostintranslation in the Betfair Chase, but he lost nothing in defeat and will undoubtedly be fitter for that. It made sense to bypass the King George over Christmas considering that Kempton doesn’t really suit him, and while the majority of these have something to prove at this kind of level, he sets a pretty strong benchmark. Indeed, it will take a top-class performer to topple Bristol De Mai, and at the prices it looks worth siding with him to show his class.

Selection

Cotswold Chase, Saturday 25th January 2020 - back Bristol De Mai at 5/2

Cotswold Chase
Bristol De Mai silk

Bristol De Mai

placed

Top-class performer, who won back-to-back renewals of the Betfair Chase in 2017 and 2018. Broke the misconception that he was a Haydock specialist with his effort to finish a fine third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season, and lost nothing in defeat when second to Lostintranslation on reappearance in the Betfair Chase in November. Will strip fitter for that, and unlike several in this field, he doesn't have to prove his credentials at this level. He sets a strong standard, and looks worth siding with at the prices.

2020 RSA Chase odds
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