Colin Tizzard is confident Lostintranslation will put up a staunch defence of his crown in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The eight-year-old denied the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai a third successive victory in Saturday’s Merseyside showpiece when triumphing 12 months ago.
Lostintranslation badly fluffed his lines when well fancied for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but bounced back to finish a close-up third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and renews rivalry with Bristol De Mai this weekend.
Tizzard said: “Lostintranslation is in great form. He is of course the defending champion, and we are looking forward to going back and hopefully winning the race again.”
The Flemensfirth gelding warmed up for last year’s victory with a pipe-opener at Carlisle – and while this time he has been off the track since the blue riband eight months ago, Tizzard is unconcerned.
He added: “He went for an away day, and we were really happy with the way he galloped. He also schooled last Wednesday morning, and I was delighted with what I saw.
“I really couldn’t be happier with him at home. That racecourse gallop will have done him the world of good, and the Betfair Chase can’t come soon enough.”
Bristol De Mai was only ninth in the Gold Cup on his latest appearance, but his regular partner Daryl Jacob expects him to make more of a race of it back at his beloved Haydock – where has won four of his five starts.
Jacob said: “I can’t wait to ride him. He’s been a wonderful horse for us, and this is another big day for him.
“He seems in really good form at home. I schooled him last week, and it’s all systems go.
“On ratings it’s going to be difficult to beat Lostintranslation and Clan Des Obeaux. But if they get a bit of rain it will suit me, and I’m very excited about riding him – I think he’s going there with a great chance again.”
Clan Des Obeaux was fourth behind Bristol De Mai in the 2018 Betfair Chase before going on to seal the first of his two victories in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The Boxing Day highlight is again top of the eight-year-old’s agenda, but trainer Paul Nicholls is confident he can first make his presence felt this weekend.
He said: “He didn’t run at Haydock last year because he went to Down Royal, but he ran in it two years ago. It was his first time we put him into Grade One company, and he probably wasn’t fully wound up – this time he will be ready.
“He’s a big, strong horse who gallops and stays. His best form probably isn’t left-handed, but he has won at Haydock and loves the track as it is flatter than Cheltenham.
“He is just a proper horse who is probably at his peak now. I can’t explain it, but he just looks like a different horse (this season) – he is more athletic and stronger, and his work has been very good.
“He has schooled nicely and done lots of work. We’ve got him in really good shape this time because there is no point going into a race like this thinking he will need the run – there will be no excuses fitness-wise, as far as I can tell.”
Victory for Clan Des Obeaux would be a seventh in the race for Nicholls, who struck four times with the mighty Kauto Star and twice with Silviniaco Conti.
He said: “The Betfair Chase has been fantastic, especially with all the memories of Kauto Star.
“In particular, when Kauto Star won for the fourth time it was an amazing day. We felt incredibly lucky – and then along came Silviniaco Conti, who went on to win two Betfair Chases.
“It has been a very good race for us and is a race we really like.”
Bellshill landed the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown when trained by Willie Mullins, but lost his form last season and would be a surprise winner on his stable debut for Berwickshire-based Sandy Thomson at the age of 10.
“Bellshill is in fine form, and we are looking forward to running,” said Thomson.
“He has been in great form since he came to me and enjoyed a racecourse gallop at Carlisle recently.
“We were delighted with that, and he would not be going to Haydock unless we thought he was going to do himself justice.”
The quintet is completed by Warren Greatrex’s outsider Keeper Hill, who is only runner with the benefit of a recent outing, having finished fourth in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago.