Ben Linfoot unpicks the result of the Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday as Bristol De Mai took advantage of his preferred conditions to win the race for a third time.
BRISTOL DE MAI in the Haydock Park mud. As reliable as Tiger Woods from six feet or Alan Shearer from 12 yards, in their pomp.
He’s now won five races at Haydock by a combined margin of 117 lengths, from six goes. On Saturday, when winning his third Betfair Chase, he was majestic, three zestful leaps at the last three obstacles symbolic of his overall performance. Ears pricked, Bristol was in his element.
Yet this was not just a geography thing. A few factors came together to create the perfect storm for our winner and race-day rainfall was certainly one of them.
Last year, when Lostintranslation beat him in this race, the only horse to have ever beaten him around Haydock, the ground was good to soft. Bristol De Mai handles most underfoot conditions and he handled those, but he copes with Haydock heavy better than anything else and the rain that fell on the track early Saturday afternoon increased his chance drop by drop.
The ground was officially changed to ‘heavy’ after the handicap hurdle that immediately preceded the Betfair Chase, perfect timing for Bristol, who smashed up Cue Card by 57 lengths the last time he had these conditions in this race back in 2017.
Today, like then, he virtually made all and jumped superbly.
At the fourth Bristol De Mai gave the fence so much air he lost ground on Bellshill, who briefly took up the running, but apart from that he jumped quickly and economically and made all but for that briefest of moments.
Bellshill kept Bristol De Mai company on the first circuit but he was the first one beat as he couldn’t keep up with the gallop. Bristol didn’t get an easy time of things on the front end, but he brushed Bellshill off with disdain.
At the 12th obstacle the Hills were beaten, both Bells and Keeper, and Lostintranslation was low at this fence. That was the first sign that Robbie Power wasn’t too happy with his mount, and though there was some response when he asked last year’s winner to get into the race his effort was short-lived.
On the turn for home Lostintranslation started to lose ground and Power went easy on him after that. Beaten 47 lengths in third, this wasn’t his true form and perhaps the heavy ground was to blame, but his overall profile is starting to look inconsistent and it’s far from straightforward to predict when he’s going to be on a going day.
While Lostinstranslation was floundering, Clan Des Obeaux was easing into contention in style. Bristol De Mai was still finding for Daryl Jacob up front, but as the jockey looked over his left shoulder for his opponents Clan was creeping into things to his right up the stands’ rail.
Jacob soon spotted the sole danger and at that point Clan Des Obeaux looked the likely winner. He was travelling the better as they jumped the second last together and that’s when Clan traded at 1.22 in-running on Betfair.
Bristol De Mai would not be denied, however, and when Jacob asked him to dig deep he did just that. He soon reasserted his advantage over Clan Des Obeaux, pinged the final fence and ground out a two-length victory like a horse that just stays that little bit stronger over this track and trip than the runner-up.
This was Bristol’s day at Haydock, again, and we should acknowledge a cracking training performance from Nigel Twiston-Davies, who knows full well this was likely his one main shot at Grade One glory this season.
Given he jumps so well and likes a flat left-handed track, perhaps we’ll finally see Bristol De Mai in the Grand National this season. I hate to say it, but his chance would increase if his trainer put him away from now until then, and if he got a heavy ground National then that would play to his strengths, too.
He'll be rated around the 170-mark, though, so a stunning weight-carrying performance would be required. Twiston-Davies usually talks himself out of it by April and goes for the Grade One Betway Bowl, anyway, but defeats in the last two renewals of that race may weigh on his mind this time.
As for Clan Des Obeaux, this was a gallant effort against a course specialist who was in the groove.
Paul Nicholls had said he was ‘hard fit’ for this and he clearly was, as he jumped really well and travelled smoothly before being outstayed in the final quarter mile on the heaviest ground he’d faced since he won the graduation chase on this card three years ago.
This goes down as his best-ever seasonal reappearance and he’s now got five weeks to get ready for his attempt at winning a third consecutive King George.
He looks in great nick as he goes for his own three-peat and as long as this doesn’t take the edge off him, which it shouldn’t given the time he’s got to recover, his battle with stablemate Cyrname looks sure to be a Christmas cracker at Kempton.