The 2018 Betfair Chase may have only been the fourteenth renewal of Haydock’s flagship event, but a second win in the race for Bristol De Main saw him become the fourth dual winner of the Betfair Chase. So, we thought we’d take a look at the career of Bristol De Mai so far and what the future may hold for the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained 7-year-old.
Born: 10 May 2011
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Jockeys: D. Jacob, S. Twiston-Davies, A. Duchene, C. Cadel
Owners: Simon Munir & Isaac Souede
Breeder: Jean-Yves Touzaint
Sire: Saddler Maker (IRE)
Dam: La Bole Night (FR)
Career In France
Bristol De Mai started his career in France in 2014 as a three-year-old, when he raced twice in July in National Hunt flat races. It would have been hard to pick him out as a future star though, as he finished fourth of sixth and last of sixth in those two races. Therefore, it was no surprise he was sent off at odds of 41/1 on his hurdles debut in September, but he belied those odds with a win on very soft ground over 2 miles and 2 furlongs.
Juvenile Season In England
After that win in France, Bristol De Mai was quickly purchased by his current owners to race in England. He made a winning English debut over hurdles at Chepstow in December, but could only finish second once and third twice in his other three runs that season.
Novice Chase Season
Bristol De Mai was bought to go chasing and, the following season, connections tried to make the most of the weight-allowance he received as four-year-old chaser. Not disgraced on his chasing debut behind the decent Garde La Victoire, who had also beaten him over hurdles, he recorded four wins and four second places in an eight-race season. His biggest win was by 32-lengths at Haydock, whilst he finished second in the JLT Chase at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
Big things were expected of Bristol De Mai, as connections stated he had matured a lot from the previous season. However, he was still only a five-year-old when he was beaten at odds of 2/5 in a two-horse race at Carlisle. He was also beaten next time out at Newcastle, when he didn’t appear to be the strongest of stayers over three-miles. However, stamina proved no barrier next time as he reversed form with the horse that had beaten him Newcastle by 25-lengths, despite only a small pull at the weights. Significantly, that performance again came at Haydock, where he travelled and jumped beautifully. Despite that success, he finished the season poorly with comprehensive defeats behind Native River in the Denman Chase, Sizing John in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Tea For Two in the Aintree Bowl.
On the back of a disappointing end to the previous season, Bristol De Mai was only fourth favourite for the Charlie Hall Chase on his seasonal reappearance. However, the high-class pair of Coneygree and Cue Card failed to complete as he went on to beat stablemate Blaklion, despite conceding him six-pounds.
The combination of that win, bottomless ground, and Haydock meant he was sent-off as favourite for the 2017 Betfair Chase, and he promptly won by a record 54-lengths after handling the conditions much better than any of his rivals.
He looked a completely different horse in the King George at Kempton next time where, despite the ground coming up soft, he found the rhythm of the Kempton layout far from his liking, eventually finishing sixth of the eight runners. He also didn’t fare much better on heavy ground at Cheltenham in January, where he could only finish third behind Definitely Red, and connections opted to miss the Cheltenham Festival with him with a view to taking him to the Aintree Festival fresh.
He fared much better on a left-handed flat track at the Grand National Meeting, just finding the 2017 Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite too good in the Aintree Bowl.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but there was little doubt the 2018 Betfair Chase was always going to be the main target for the season for Bristol De Mai, whose win in the race made it four wins from four runs at Haydock. The stiffer than usual fences were also ideal for him, as it put extra pressure on the jumping of better-fancied rivals that were unproven at Haydock. He travelled and jumped supremely well throughout, coming home an easy winner on ground that was much quicker than the previous year.
After his second win in the Betfair Chase, it was no surprise that Bristol De Mai shortened in the markets for both the King George Chase on Boxing day and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, though there’s a chance the seven-year-old could reach his peak this season, if you watch last season’s King George, it’s unlikely you’ll be in any hurry to take the best-priced 8/1 about him winning the 2018 King George.
Even the 20/1 about him winning the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup makes little appeal on his past Cheltenham performances. If he does run poorly in those big-races, he may still be worth considering at Aintree. However, I imagine connections will already be dreaming about him winning a third Betfair Chase in the 2019 Betfair Chase back at Haydock.