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Bristol De Mai records famous hat-trick in Betfair Chase

Bristol De Mai lifted a third Betfair Chase with a gutsy performance in testing conditions at Haydock.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ popular grey thrives at the Merseyside circuit and had won this Grade One contest in 2017 and 2018, before seeing his hat-trick bid derailed by Lostinstranslation last year.

Bristol De Mai firmly had his revenge on that rival this time, however, as he produced an impressive round of jumping in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

Prominent throughout, Bristol De Mai was in control turning for home as both Clan Des Obeaux and 7-4 favourite Lostintranslation lined up to challenge.

The latter dropped away tamely, leaving Clan Des Obeaux to test Bristol De Mai – but the nine-year-old had plenty in reserve and after clearing the last, he galloped all the way to the line to score by two lengths.

Following his previous Betfair Chase victories, Bristol De Mai went on to tackle the King George VI Chase at Kempton without success, but Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, has a different Boxing Day option in mind this term.

He said: “We specifically didn’t enter him in the King George, so we might have to think what to do next. But we might have to run in a handicap – because what else can you do?

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“There’s the Cotswold Chase, but that’s not until the end of January – it’s a long time waiting until then, so the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby, something like that.

“It’s a shame there hasn’t been a crowd here today. Merseyside really takes to this horse.”

Bristol De Mai was springheeled in the Betfair Chase
Bristol De Mai was springheeled in the Betfair Chase (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jacob said: “He’s a real credit to the whole team.

“It was great – I was looking at the rain (forecast) all week up at Haydock. The heavens opened up a little bit before the first race, and I texted Simon and Isaac to say ‘I’ve never been so happy to ride in the rain’.

“It was ideal to have Bellshill up there. Obviously, getting a little bit older he’s getting a little bit cute, so I needed him up there at times to bring me along again.

“I think this is just the ideal track for him really – flat, left-handed, and he’s always at his best on those.”

Jacob pointed towards a certain race in April as being ideal for Bristol De Mai.

He said: “I’d love to see him in the Grand National.

“His jumping is very good – he’s brave when you need him to be, but as you could see down the back straight there, he was good and clever to pop them. I’d love to have one crack at him – he’s nine now, rising 10, so I suppose if there’s a year that’s going to be his it’s going to be this year.”

Paul Nicholls felt the ground had scuppered Clan Des Obeaux, with his charge having had a hard race ahead of his planned King George defence next month.

Clan Des Obeaux has a King George defence on his agenda
Clan Des Obeaux has a King George defence on his agenda (Steven Paston/PA)

He said: “The rain today didn’t help him at all. On that heavy ground, he didn’t truly get that three-two. Sam (Twiston-Davies) gave him a brilliant ride, but he was beaten by a mud lark and a real true stayer.

“I’m just thinking all the way what might have happened on better ground. He just could have done without all that rain as the ground has gone very heavy. The rain has beat him, but he has run a blinding race. It was an encouraging run for Kempton.

“Cyrname and him have had a role reversal. If you think Cyrname had a really hard race a year ago on this day and Clan has had a real hard race this time.

“He is a tough horse and I’d like to think he will be all right, but he knows he has had a race today. I’m thrilled though and it was a good run.”

Lostintranslation (right) beat Bristol De Mai last year, but disappointed in his defence
Lostintranslation (right) beat Bristol De Mai last year, but disappointed in his defence (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Connections of the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation also pointed to the ground taking its toll.

Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He never travelled on that ground. Robbie (Power) said after he jumped the first, he could feel he was hating it.

“Robbie has always said he’s a better horse on better ground and he finished last here in a novice hurdle one day. He did well to get round as he wants a bit more bounce in the ground.”

Mrs Hyde continues swift progression with Wetherby win

Mrs Hyde proved too strong for Grade One-winning mare Verdana Blue in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby.

Nicky Henderson’s 2018 Christmas Hurdle heroine was the 5-6 favourite to get back on the winning trail, having filled the runner-up spot behind Silver Streak in a Listed event at Kempton a fortnight ago.

Verdana Blue had upwards of 22lb in hand over her six rivals in West Yorkshire on official ratings, but came up short in the rain-softened ground.

The Brian Ellison-trained Mrs Hyde had won on the same Kempton card a couple of weeks ago and was a 6-1 shot to double her Listed tally in the hands of Daryl Jacob.

Verdana Blue loomed up ominously in the home straight, but Mrs Hyde refused to bend on the run-in and saw her off by a neck.

“She’s never stopped improving,” said Ellison.

“When she won at Southwell and Perth during the summer, she made the running, but after she got beat at Market Rasen we decided we’d drop her in and give her a chance. It worked at Kempton and it’s worked again today.

“Daryl said he got to the front a bit early today. The plan was to sit until the last and try to pick the favourite off.

“She’s won on soft ground today and won on good to firm. She’s tough.”

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Brian Ellison was delighted with Mrs Hyde's performance
Brian Ellison was delighted with Mrs Hyde’s performance (Brian Lawless/PA)

Considering future plans, the trainer added: “She’s won four of her last five races now and we might just give her a break.

“I know she’s won twice left-handed now, but I do think she’s better right-handed, so we could go back to Kempton or somewhere like that.”

Sean Bowen delivered Irish raider Hear No Evil with a well-timed challenge to claim the Price Promise At bet365 Handicap Chase.

The 16-1 shot was settled at the rear of the field for much of the three-mile contest, but came home strongly to score by nine and a half lengths from Grange Ranger.

It was a welcome boost for trainer Noel Kelly, who had to withdraw stable star Decor Irlandais from the Grade Two bet365 Hurdle later in the afternoon.

He said: “Decor Irlandais is here, but he pulled off a shoe. It’s a bit frustrating, but at least he didn’t break a tendon or something. It’s only a pulled shoe and it’s not the end of the world.

“We bought this horse (Hear No Evil) out of Dan Skelton’s yard. We said to Sean ‘take your time and if they go too fast, he’ll keeping plugging on’. He gave him a brilliant ride, I thought.”

Skelton’s Ashtown Lad displayed courage and class in equal measure to win a bet365 Novices’ Hurdle run in atrocious conditions.

Narrowly beaten over the course and distance on his previous outing, the 11-10 favourite was sent straight to the lead by Harry Skelton and jumped slickly and travelled strongly, despite the driving rain, on his way to a near three-length verdict.

A sodden Dan Skelton said: “He’s a very nice horse and he has a good attitude, obviously, to go from the front in that weather.

“He’s a chaser really and I always felt like this was a good horse.

“I’m not sure what we’ll do now. I’ll talk to Darren (Yates, owner) and decide.”

Minella For Me after winning at Wetherby
Minella For Me after winning at Wetherby (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Tom George and Johnny Burke combined to claim the bet365 Handicap Chase with 9-1 shot Minella For Me.

Carrying the colours of owner Simon Clarke, whose popular grey Nacarat won the Charlie Hall Chase on this card a decade ago, Minella For Me passed the post with five and a half lengths in hand over 100-30 favourite Guy.

Burke said: “He’s a very honest horse. He used to be quite keen, but he’s grown up a lot and is settling well and jumping well.

“He’s a good, fun horse for his owner Simon, who has been a great supporter of Tom.”

Burke went on to complete a double aboard Jonjo O’Neill’s 4-1 favourite Arrivederci in the concluding bet365 Handicap Hurdle.

Rouge Vif puts down marker for two-mile championship honours

Rouge Vif staked an early claim for some of this season’s top-two mile chases with a stunning performance on his return to Cheltenham.

Winner of the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick in February, the six-year-old was last seen finishing third in the Arkle Trophy at the Festival in March.

He appears to have improved significantly since, judged on an impressive weight-carrying performance in the Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase – travelling with enthusiasm and jumping with aplomb under Daryl Jacob on his way to a seven-and-a-half-length success.

Whittington was claiming the two-mile contest for the second year in succession, having saddled another stable star in Saint Calvados to secure victory 12 months ago.

“He was awesome,” said the Wantage handler.

“He has got a god ground action and is just so slick to jump out of it – on better ground you see him at his best.

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“He was in his comfort zone there and has loved it today. I hoped he had improved for a summer break as I ride him myself most days and he feels a more powerful animal.

“He has obviously strengthened up a lot, but to win a handicap off a mark of 156 like that is impressive – he has slightly surprised me.”

Bookmakers were quick to slash Rouge Vif’s odds for both the Tingle Creek at Sandown and the Queen Mother Champion Chase back at Cheltenham.

Whittington is keen to let the dust settle before considering future plans, adding: “Today he looked like a proper two-miler. Daryl says he will stay two-and-a-half, but I don’t think we will be going up in trip yet.

“Coming back here for the Shloer Chase in three weeks’ time is a potential option, but we will have to get home and discuss and talk to Andrew (Brooks, owner), as it will be his decision and we will go from there.”

Trainer Dr Richard Newland and conditional jockey Cillin Leonard teamed up to land the squareintheair.com Handicap Hurdle for the second year in succession, this time with Captain Tom Cat.

The same combination claimed victory with Duke Street in 2019, and this year’s candidate appeared to hold excellent claims following back-to-back wins at Uttoxeter during the summer.

Always on the pace, the 15-2 chance kicked clear from the home turn and had enough in the tank to hold Debestyman at bay by two lengths.

Captain Tom Cat leads over the final flight at Cheltenham
Captain Tom Cat leads over the final flight at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

Newland said: “He won those two novice hurdles in the summer, I thought he was impressive in the second one and thought he might be reasonably well handicapped.

“We were actually going to run in the conditional jockeys’ race later in the day, but I just decided in the last week or two he would better suited to this as they’d go more of a gallop and the step up in trip has obviously worked for him.

“He’s got a lovely, big stride and a lovely way of doing things – he just gallops and jumps and will make a great chaser.

“It was a very good ride and a super performance from the horse today. There are plenty more races in him, but it is probably more likely over fences where it will get really interesting.”

Fusil Raffles makes victorious chasing bow at Uttoxeter

Fusil Raffles made a winning start to his new career over fences in the SSR Congratulates Phil Bell 55 Today Novices’ Chase at Uttoxeter.

A Grade One-winning juvenile hurdler, Fusil Raffles was last seen finishing well beaten in the Champion Hurdle, when he had his major market rival for this contest, Gumball, one place behind.

Fusil Raffles jumped well throughout as Gumball, despite some hairy leaps at the head of affairs, set a brisk tempo.

Quick Grabim, winner of the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle when trained by Willie Mullins, moved up menacingly down the back straight as Fusil Raffles began to look tapped for speed.

However, on the run between the second last and final fence, Fusil Raffles got a second wind and Daryl Jacob moved him upsides.

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Another safe jump sealed the deal and the 5-6 favourite pulled four lengths clear of Quick Grabim. Betfair gave the winner a 25-1 quote for the Arkle in March.

Henderson said: “He jumped very well, but took a big blow turning in. They went very hard, which they are always going to do when Gumball is around!

“Gumball has beaten Verdana Blue on the Flat and is rated higher than Fusil over hurdles, so they were always going to go fast and I thought he was good.

“It’s possible he might want two and a half miles – it’s not that he’s slow, but he stays two miles very well. I was delighted with him really.

“He is out early for one of mine. We brought him in early with the intention of running him in that Listed Hurdle at Kempton in October, but then I realised he’d be ready long before then.

“We started schooling over fences and realised he enjoyed it. I don’t know where next, but he does jump well and that’s a good start. He was just ready to run and we had to go to war today – it was a nice starting point.

“He can only do one thing and that is improve for it.”

Regarding the rest of his string, Henderson added: “A lot came in earlier, but only because they went out earlier.

“They got on some really good grass in the spring and they are bigger than normal, they were doing too well. They are not forward, but you can’t afford to be – that’s the biggest danger.

“We’re ready to press on, but you can’t because there’s no ground and no races for them yet – but we are still only in September. We’ll have a few for Chepstow in October, normally we aren’t ready for that.”

When it was suggested Altior could start his season in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on November 15, Henderson said: “You could look at that, but then you’ve got the Tingle Creek (Sandown, December 5) as well.”