Twiston-Davies anticipating bold Aintree show from Bristol De Mai

Casting his gaze over the noble head of Bristol De Mai at Grange Farm Stables, Nigel Twiston-Davies exuded cautious optimism over the grey’s Randox Grand National prospects in what will be the first edition of the race staged behind closed doors.

The Covid-19 pandemic might have put paid to what would have been the top weight’s first attempt at the National 12 months ago, but Twiston-Davies thanks his lucky stars that owing to a huge combined effort within the racing industry, the sport has continued without issue through the winter lockdown.

A smattering of owners that are now allowed to attend Aintree will add a small voice to the occasion, but as far as the participants are concerned – be they trainer, horse or jockey – everything will pan out like any other day’s racing, with a tension you could cut with a knife as the runners assemble in front of the stands.

Twiston-Davies identified the class element that Bristol De Mai will bring to the National table very soon after he arrived at Guiting Power from France as an exciting juvenile hurdler.

He recalls: “He was sent to us by the owners as a three-year-old and we thought he was decent when he won the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. He went on to finish third at Aintree and went straight over fences as a four-year-old.

“I was going to run him in last year’s National and while that never happened, he’s been trained specifically for the race this time. We decided to give the Gold Cup a miss, and take him fresh to Aintree.

“He’s a very good jumper and Daryl (Jacob) was delighted with the way he schooled over a couple of dressed up fences here on Thursday. He had two goes and greatly enjoyed himself.”

Bristol De Mai and Nigel Twiston-Davies
Bristol De Mai and Nigel Twiston-Davies (Neil Morrice/PA)

It is interesting that each of the people most closely connected with the gelding on the training side of the equation are united in their view that he was in fact ‘made’ for the rigours the old course, with the Becher’s Brook drop, the towering presence of The Chair and generally far stiffer obstacles.

The design of the obstacles has been adjusted over the years, with every fence redressed with a plastic easy-fix inner torso that still catches out a number of horses, but for the overall good of the sport makes the fences safer.

Such a scenario did not greet Earth Summit and Bindaree for their Aintree triumphs of 1998 and 2002.

Bindaree on his way to National glory for Nigel Twiston-Davies
Bindaree on his way to National glory for Nigel Twiston-Davies (Rui Vieira/PA)

Twiston-Davies said: “The course has changed a lot over the years, which is a shame in a sense, as I feel the old National fences would have played to Bristol’s strengths. Since they redid the insides of the fences, it’s made the jumping side of the equation easier.

“He pleased me in each of his races this season. To win a third Betfair Chase like that was very special, and I thought he did nothing wrong at Sandown (when chasing home Native River) in the Cotswold Chase.

“I feel very lucky to have won two Nationals. Earth Summit surprised me a little, as I thought he might not be brave enough for it, but it was quite the reverse as it was his ground and it didn’t worry him one little bit.

Earth Summit won the National in 1998
Earth Summit won the National in 1998 (PA)

“When Bindaree won I was contemplating my future as a trainer, and I suppose he helped me U-turn my decision. He was a horse with a lot of class, he took to it and in truth didn’t surprise me.

“We could have had a third success with Beau, who also had a touch of class and had won a Whitbread. He was travelling beautifully, but nodded on landing at the first on the second circuit and it caused the rein to go over his head.

“Carl (Llewellyn) tried to keep the steering intact for three or four more fences, but in the end gravity took over. Carl fell off and then tried to catch him, as he could have remounted. There was still plenty of time for him to win the race.”

Praising the combined efforts of everyone that has assisted in running racing, the trainer added: “I think it’s great for the sport that racing has continued unabated through the third lockdown, with not a single upset, which is the main thing.

“We don’t need anyone rocking the boat and it’s superb the way they have kept the show on the road.

“It won’t be the same without the crowds, but it’s the National – there only is one and it would have been a disaster to miss two.”

Carl Llewellyn was a National winner on Party Politics in 1992
Carl Llewellyn was a National winner on Party Politics in 1992 (John Giles/PA)

Llewellyn is business partner to Twiston- Davies at Grange Farm and partnered Party Politics as well as Earth Summit to Aintree glory.

He said: “Over the relatively new easy-fix with spruce fences, horses don’t have to be as good jumpers as they were to get round.

“I think Bristol De Mai will be fine. He finished third in a Gold Cup so is classy, and as an individual he’s very athletic, tall and has great footwork. He has a hell of a lot of scope, respects his fences and has the ability to both stand off and shorten up.”

Bristol De Mai relaxing at home
Bristol De Mai relaxing at home (Neil Morrice/PA)

The trainer’s ‘right hand man’ Jim Old is a permanent feature on the gallops, and since retiring from the training ranks has managed the interests of a handful of inmates at the yard.

Old is in agreement with Twiston-Davies that in one sense Bristol De Mai is a horse out of time.

He explains: “I only ever had one runner in the National, and apart from that had one beaten a short head in the Topham, so you could say Aintree wasn’t really my bag. But if you could pick a horse that would have all the attributes required for that course, then it’s Bristol De Mai.

“Without any doubt he would have been a wonderful horse for the old National course. But that’s in the past and he will still love it round there.

“If it stayed dry, it wouldn’t be too much of a worry because he’s won on it at Haydock.”

Checkitout books Ayr ticket with cosy Ludlow strike

Checkitout set himself up for a tilt at a valuable prize at Ayr when completing a double for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies in the Bromfield Sand And Gravel Handicap Chase at Ludlow.

The rapidly improving seven-year-old coped with a course that was plenty sharp enough in his pilot’s view, pulling seven and a half lengths and one length clear of King Of Realms and El Presente.

It was an impressive performance from the 6-4 favourite, but the race was marred by a fatal injury to Capeland, a multiple winner over fences who broke a hind cannonbone in the early stages.

Checkitout (far side) takes the water jump
Checkitout (far side) takes the water jump (PA)

Sam Twiston-Davies said: “He was unlucky here earlier in the season when he pitched after overjumping and fell. You can see by his size that he’s not an ideal Ludlow horse, and Nige has had a valuable novices’ handicap chase at the Scottish National meeting as a long-term plan for him.

“If he’s in as good form as he was today, he’d go there with a good winning chance.”

The jockey initiated his double aboard 11-2 shot Fontana Ellissi, who upset the odds-on favourite Hurling Magic in the Watch On RacingTV Novices’ Hurdle.

He added: “He’s a very straightforward horse who will jump fences in the future. The ground really suited him.”

Apache Creek in action for the O'Neill team
Apache Creek in action for the O’Neill team (David Davies/PA)

Apache Creek continues to reward the patience of his connections, and the six-year-old readily picked off his foes to complete a hat-trick in the Lets Beat This Together Handicap Hurdle.

Jonjo O’Neill Jr bided his time on Apache Creek and after taking control approaching the final flight, stayed on strongly to score by two and a half lengths from Wicked Willy.

The success takes O’Neill to 59 winners for the campaign, just two adrift of his total for the 2019-20 season.

O’Neill said: “Apache Creek has been a bit of a slow burner. He wasn’t easy to train at first, but the patience of the owners has now been rewarded.

“He does knock a few out, but he’s a relatively young horse who likes a strong gallop to aim at.”

Rock On Rocco and Tom Scudamore were on the mark
Rock On Rocco and Tom Scudamore were on the mark (David Davies/PA)

Tom George’s horses are running into form on the better ground, and another to put his best hooves forward for the Slad trainer was Rock On Rocco (4-1) in the Join Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Tom Scudamore donned the Roger Brookhouse colours, in which he landed the Arkle on Western Warhorse back in 2014, to steer Rock On Rocco to a two-and-a-quarter-length success over Somekindofstar.

Scudamore said: “Since winning at Kempton, it’s taken a while for him to get his confidence back, but he certainly appreciated the better ground today and warmed to his task as the race developed.

“He was very exact and really good up the home straight. He’s jumped well and travelled very nicely.

“I’ve ridden a lot for Mr Brookhouse over the years and he’s always been a great supporter.”

Tom Scudamore will team up with Adagio at Aintree
Tom Scudamore will team up with Adagio at Aintree (David Davies/PA)

Scudamore has Triumph Hurdle second Adagio as one of his best rides to look forward to at Aintree and added: “David (Pipe) sees Aintree as the logical route.

“He had a little setback, but has improved each time I’ve sat on him. It’s of great credit to everyone at Pond House that he ran so well in the Triumph and might now go to Aintree.”

Take It Easy wore down Magic Dancer before holding the challenge of Hydroplane by a length and a half in the Visit racing Handicap Hurdle.

The 11-8 favourite, trained by Pam Sly, enabled Kielan Woods to equal his best previous tally of 30 winners.

Take It Easy returns to the winner's enclosure
Take It Easy returns to the winner’s enclosure (PA)

The jockey enthused: “He’s a lovely little horse who is still learning about the game.

“It was a messy old race in which I rode him too handy and got there too soon, but he was all right on that ground. He has loads of boot, and was as clever as a cat with his jumping.”

Woods has ridden for Sly since his conditional days and added: “Pam’s been brilliant to me since I was a 7lb claimer. It’s been a great season with 60 more rides than ever before.”

Garde Ville won the final race of the day
Garde Ville won the final race of the day (David Davies/PA)

Getaway Luv (2-5 favourite), trained by Olly Murphy, did not have things all his own way in the Bet At Novices’ Hurdle and had to be punched right out by Aidan Coleman to resist Just The Man by three-quarters of a length.

The closing Ludlow Race Club Open Hunters’ Chase went to Garde Ville (100-30).

Beauport bags Grade Three honours in Sandown contest

Beauport, running in the famous Corbiere colours, ploughed through the Sandown mud to win the European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.

Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the five-year-old was sent off a 28-1 chance and appeared to have a bit to find on the form book.

Out the back in the initial stages, Jordan Nailor made a bold move to take up the running early in the straight and it was an advantage he was not to relinquish.

Fancied runners such as Patroclus and Karl Philippe travelled well until the final three furlongs, when it appeared to become very hard work and their efforts soon petered out.

It was left to Dan Skelton’s Riggs to chase home the winner and while he looked a threat at the last, he ended up getting very tired and Beauport won by 11 lengths. Gladiateur Allen was third and Sam Barton was fourth.

Nailor said: “This is my first winner at Sandown and my first Graded or Listed winner as well.

“I rode him in a bumper at Fontwell where he finished fourth and ran really well, then I rode him over hurdles at Southwell and he was third and again he ran well.

“Then I was on him again at Fontwell when he won and did it really nicely over two miles and six furlongs. Then he ran over two miles and three furlongs at Fontwell when he was third and was staying on – he just got done (for toe) a bit.

“But back over two-four today and that climb in that ground, it really helped him.

“It’s great to get a winner like that. I’m 22 now and it is my best season so far, and that was my 24th winner.

“It means everything, but Carl Llewellyn has a lot to do with this horse and it is down to him and the owners and everyone for keeping me on him on such a big day.”

Gowel Road forwards Festival claims at Newbury

Gowel Road overcame greenness to earn himself a possible visit to Cheltenham with an all-the-way triumph for Nigel Twiston-Davies and son Sam in the Read Paul Nicholls On Betting Betfair Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury.

The 7-2 shot was a bit wayward at his hurdles on occasion, but after being joined by Good Ball halfway up the home straight, he soon saw off that rival on the run in to score by five and a half lengths.

In the colours of smart hurdler and chaser Double Ross, the winner might well take up his entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Sam Twiston-Davies said: “He was a bit of a rebel when he came straight to Grange Farm from the sales. Zac Baker spent a lot of time working on him and Tom Bellamy got bucked off on the odd occasion.

“He’s still incredibly green and at Ffos Las he was inclined to go left. I thought a lot would want to take the lead today, but he was sensible in front. He looked at a couple of the wings, but he’s learning and was brave at the finish, knuckling down well.

“We’ve had an up-and-down year and after three we liked pulled up yesterday, he comes here and rocks up. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.

“It would be nice to think he can go up in trip as he has a nice way of running, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he runs in the Supreme. Remember he is trained by Nigel!”

Aintree is the aim for Polish after a fine staying performance in the Betfair Weighed-In Podcast Weekly Handicap Hurdle.

Under Paddy Brennan, the 14-1 chance gradually picked off his rivals to score by two lengths and one and three-quarters from Howling Milan and Southfield Harvest.

Brennan said: “At no point was I comfortable or happy. It was hard to be confident as there were several going better than me turning in.

“I thought the winning post at Newbury was as far away as the pubs opening, but he dug deep.

“When I sent my review to Fergal (O’Brien, trainer), I told him the horse had had a hard race and he won’t need another before Aintree.”

Paul Nicholls completed a double when Enrilo got the best of a good battle with Hold The Note and Ballymoy in the “My Oddsboost” On Betfair Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

The 2-1 favourite looked to be going much the best two out, but in the end had to be driven out to score by half a length and the same under Harry Cobden, adding to Nicholls’ Denman Chase success with Secret Investor.

The winning jockey said: “He’s a horse that does everything very well on the bridle and if I’d committed two out, we would have got beat.

“He did well to win and Paul’s talking about sending him to Aintree.”

Sam Thomas has a good prospect in Good Risk At All (10-1) who ran out a clear-cut winner of the Read Tony Calvin’s Tips On Betting.Betfair National Hunt Flat Race, beating I Like To Move It by two and a quarter lengths.

Winning rider Tom Scudamore said: “Sam is doing really well and has had a lot of winners. This horse is not a Cheltenham horse for this year, but will be in time.”

Betfair Hurdle Trends

Staged at Newbury racecourse the Betfair Hurdle is a Grade Three contest run over 2m 1/2f in February each year. First run in 1963, the race is always a hotly-contested race, while some punters might know the even better as either the Tote Gold Trophy or the totesport Trophy, being that’s what the race was called before Betfair took over the sponsorship in 2012.

Despite more obvious Champion Hurdle trials on offer during the season the race has thrown up two horses – Persian War and Make A Stand – that went onto glory at the Cheltenham Festival in the Champion Hurdle later that season, while the 2013 hero - My Tent Or Yours - went onto be second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The 2003 winner, Spirit Leader, went onto land the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the following month, while in 2017 the Nigel Twiston-Davis-trained Ballyandy won the race before running fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. More recently in 2018, Kalashinkov won this before running second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

In 2019, we saw the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Al Dancer win the race under jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, while last year the Paul Nicholls camp were successful with a 33/1 shot – Pic D’Orhy.

Here at GEEGEEZ, we look back at recent winners of the race and highlights the key stats ahead of the 2021 renewal – this year staged on Sunday 21st February.


Recent Betfair Hurdle Winners

2020 – PIC D’ORHY (33/1)
2019 - AL DANCER (5/2 fav)
2018 – KALASHINKOV (8/1 co-fav)
2017 – BALLYANDY (3/1 fav)
2016 – AGRAPART (16/1)
2015 – VIOLET DANCER (20/1)
2014 – SPLASH OF GINGE (33/1)
2013 – MY TENT OR YOURS (5/1 fav)
2012 – ZARKANDAR (11/4 fav)
2011 – RECESSION PROOF (12/1)
2010 – GET ME OUT OF HERE (6/1)
2009 – No race
2008 – WINGMAN (14/1)
2007 – HEATHCOTE (50/1)
2006 – No race
2005 – ESSEX (4/1 fav)
2004 – GEOS (16/1)
2003 – SPIRIT LEADER (14/1)
2002 – COPELAND (13/2)
2001 – LANDING LIGHT (4/1 fav)

Betfair Hurdle Betting Trends

18/18 – Carried 11-8 or less in weight
17/18 – Aged 7 or younger
16/18 – Rated 130 or higher
15/18 – Won between 2-4 times over hurdles in the UK/IRE before
15/18 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
15/18 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
15/18 – Aged either 5 or 6 years-old
14/18 – Came from the first 7 in the betting
14/18 – Went onto run at that season’s Cheltenham Festival
13/18 – Winning distance – 3 lengths or less
13/18 – Placed favourites
10/18 – Carried 10-9 or less in weight
9/18 – Came from the top 5 in the betting
9/18 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/18 – Irish bred
8/18 – Won last time out
8/18 – Aged 5 years-old (including 8 of last 14)
7/18 – Winning favourites
4/18 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
3/18 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (has won the race 5 times in all)
3/18 – Trained by Gary Moore
3/18 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies (3 of the last 7)
2/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (2 of the last 9)
2/18  - Raced at Leopardstown last time out
2/18 – Owned by JP McManus
1/18 – Went onto win the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival that season (Spirit Leader 2003)
23 of the last 24 winners have been aged 7 or younger
The average winning SP in the last 18 runnings is 14/1










Bristol De Mai ‘in very good shape’ for Cotswold challenge

Nigel Twiston-Davies does not expect a switch to Sandown to inconvenience Bristol De Mai ahead of the rescheduled Virgin Bet Cotswold Chase.

Following the abandonment of Cheltenham’s Trials Day fixture last weekend, the authorities moved quickly to save this Grade Two contest and recognised Gold Cup trial – and have been rewarded with what promises to be a fascinating affair.

Popular grey Bristol De Mai has been branded as a Haydock specialist over the years, much to the annoyance of his trainer.

And while he only gave that theory more weight in bagging his third Betfair Chase in November, he has run plenty of good races away from Merseyside – including a Grade One success at Sandown in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at this fixture five years ago.

Twiston-Davies said: “It doesn’t matter to Bristol whether he goes left-handed or right-handed, so it’s not a problem.

“It’s five years since he won the Scilly Isles – he’s been going a long time!

“He’s in very good shape and I don’t think the track or the ground will be an issue, so we’re very happy.”

Bristol De Mai is nought from six at Cheltenham, but did finish third in the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup and found only subsequent Gold Cup runner-up Santini too strong in last year’s Cotswold Chase.

Connections hope to have a clearer idea as to whether the 10-year-old merits a fourth tilt at Gold Cup glory after this weekend, with the Grand National at Aintree also a major target for the spring.

“Let’s see how we go on Saturday before thinking about anything else,” Twiston-Davies added.

Santini proved his Gold Cup credentials with an ultimately authoritative display in last year’s renewal, before pushing Al Boum Photo all the way in the blue riband.

However, he will line up at Sandown with questions to answer, having failed to recapture his best form in two starts so far this season – most recently finishing fifth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Santini on his way to winning last year's Cotswold Chase
Santini on his way to winning last year’s Cotswold Chase (David Davies/PA)

Henderson told Unibet: “It’s great that Sandown are able to restage this race because this has been the plan for quite some time and should put him spot on for another crack at the Gold Cup.

“The track is right up his street, I don’t think a slog on heavy ground is really what he’s crying out for but he has to run so we might as well let him take his chance.”

With Champ, Henderson’ other Gold Cup contender, reappearing next weekend at Newbury, Aidan Coleman has been employed.

“Aidan knows Champ from his hurdling days and obviously Nico (de Boinville) knows Santini inside out so it is important that both jockeys are familiar with both horses. We are trying to keep all angles covered with a view to what may or may not happen at Cheltenham,” added Henderson.

Native River bids to bounce back to winning ways
Native River bids to bounce back to winning ways (Steven Paston/PA)

Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River proved he retains plenty of ability when a close-up third behind Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad and Santini in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December, when several fences were missed because of low sun.

“Everybody keeps asking me if Sandown will suit him, but I don’t see why not,” said assistant trainer Joe Tizzard.

“The seven fences down the back will really suit his jumping and a nice, stiff finish. In ground conditions like this, it’s tough around Sandown, so I think it will suit him.

“He’s in lovely form and has done nothing wrong for the last two years. He ran a blinder at Aintree and this has always been the plan.

“It’s fantastic they’ve reorganised it from last weekend, as we certainly didn’t want to miss it.”

Lake View Lad gets the opportunity to prove that triumph was no fluke, while Harry Whittington saddles King George fourth Saint Calvados.

The six-strong field is completed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Yala Enki, who steps up in grade after beating If The Cap Fits in a conditions race at Taunton a fortnight ago.

Nicholls said: “He’s astonishing. If you’d seen him work and school earlier this week, you wouldn’t believe it – he’s so enthusiastic.

“He’s ate up everything since he ran and is very fresh. The more it rains ahead of Saturday the more it will suit him.

“I’m not saying he’ll go and win, but if it’s really testing ground and gets really attritional, he’ll run really tidy.”

Santini and Bristol De Mai face Cotswold Chase rematch

Last year’s one-two Santini and Bristol De Mai are among eight horses declared for Saturday’s Paddy Power “45 Sleeps To Cheltenham” Cotswold Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s Santini saw off the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai by three and a half lengths in last year’s renewal of the Grade Two contest, before going on to finish a close second to Al Boum Photo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He has failed to rediscover that level of form so far this season – most recently finishing fifth in the King George at Kempton – and Henderson has already voiced concerns about the prospect of ultra-testing conditions in the Cotswolds this weekend.

Henderson told Sky Sports Racing: “Our feeling, even at the beginning of the week, was if it was heavy ground we’d have to think again.

“It is a trial and it’s very important with him that he enjoys it.

“He loves work and loves jumping and loves racing, but I don’t want to take that away from him by giving him a very tough race in really heavy ground – I want to find a race that he’s actually going to enjoy.

“I’m not saying I want an easy race for him as there’s no such thing. The only alternative would be to wait for the Denman Chase at Newbury and we have Champ going there, but you can’t not run a horse just because you have another one in the race.

“You’ve got to go where is right for the horses and we are short of options”

With stable jockey Nico de Boinville heading to Doncaster to partner star novice chaser Shishkin and Jerry McGrath sidelined by injury, Aidan Coleman has been booked to partner Santini for the first time.

Bristol De Mai is a couple of pounds better off for the rematch and loves nothing more than a slog in the mud, as he proved when winning his third Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.

Colin Tizzard’s 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River returns to the Cotswolds for the first time since finishing fourth in the 2019 renewal of the blue riband, having missed the race last season through injury.

The 11-year-old proved he retains plenty of ability when a close-up third behind Nick Alexander’s Lake View Lad and Santini in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last month, although several fences were missed because of low sun.

Lake View Lad gets the opportunity to prove that triumph was no fluke under champion jockey Brian Hughes, while Harry Whittington saddles King George fourth Saint Calvados.

The Conditional (David Bridgwater), Yorkhill (Sandy Thomson) and Yala Enki (Paul Nicholls) are the other hopefuls.

Paisley Park is set to face five rivals when bidding for a third straight victory in the Paddy Power Cleeve Hurdle.

Emma Lavelle’s stable star suffered a well-documented heart problem when defending his crown in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, but has bounced back to finish second in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and win the Long Walk at Ascot this term.

His biggest threat could be Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet, who reverts to the smaller obstacles after displaying high-class form over fences.

David Pipe runs the prolific Main Fact, although he has plenty of ground to make up on Paisley Park on their Ascot meeting last month.

Pipe has a second string to his bow in Ramses De Teillee, with the teenage Unowhatimeanharry and Irish challenger Decor Irlandais completing the field.

Nassalam looks to have a good opportunity to regain the winning thread in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial.

Gary Moore’s dual Fontwell scorer was no match for Pipe’s Adagio in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow three weeks ago, but will be widely expected to account for his three rivals this weekend.

Aso heads a field of 11 runners for the Paddy Power Millionaire Trophy Handicap Chase, while Nicky Martin’s stable star Bear Ghylls puts his unbeaten record on the line against four opponents in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Twiston-Davies’ One True King has ‘ideal’ Lanzarote profile

Nigel Twiston-Davies believes One True King is an “ideal” contender for the Ladbrokes Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton.

The six-year-old will be having just his sixth run over hurdles on Saturday, but arrives with an admirable record – having won twice and been placed on his other three starts in this sphere to date.

One True King was last seen when hacking up by 12 lengths at Leicester last month, and Twiston-Davies expects the former point-to-point and bumper winner to put up a bold show from his current mark of 132.

He said: “One True King hasn’t done a lot wrong this season and he should have won like he did last time at Leicester.

“He should be OK stepping up to this sort of trip around Kempton, because there is not the fierce Cheltenham hill at the end.

“This wasn’t a race we had in mind at the start – but as the season has gone on, we started thinking about it. Off his mark of 132, he should be ideal for it.”

Shang Tang was a winner at Ascot back in November
Shang Tang was a winner at Ascot back in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Emma Lavelle is another who thinks she may have a runner on a favourable perch, as Shang Tang heads her two-pronged attack on the Listed handicap.

The seven-year-old shed his maiden tag at the sixth attempt at Ascot in November, but was then forced to miss a planned outing back there in December before running at Wincanton on Boxing Day when he fell at the first.

Lavelle said: “He was supposed to run at Ascot, but for the first time ever I couldn’t get a horse to load – he’d had a bad experience previously and he would not get on the lorry. While we didn’t learn much on the track at Wincanton, we at least learned that day that he would load!

“He was just a bit fresh at Wincanton, he made a mistake or whatever and slipped – but (jockey) James (Bowen) caught him, and he didn’t go anywhere, so he didn’t have a race.

“Jumping is usually his forte, and he has schooled well since, so hopefully that was just a one-off.

“He’s in good order, and I think there’s a bit of movement on his mark. I think he’s improved this season – and I do think he could be pretty well in.”

Boreham Bill (right) ran at Kempton last time out
Boreham Bill (right) ran at Kempton last time out (David Davies/PA)

While Lavelle is unconcerned by the prospect of soft ground for Shang Tang, conditions could go against her other runner Boreham Bill – who was beaten into a narrow third over the course and distance last time out.

She added: “I wouldn’t be particularly worried about the ground for Shang Tang, but it’s probably not going to be ideal for Boreham Bill.

“I think he’s a horse that benefits from nice ground, but Kempton is as good a ground as we are going to get at this time of year.

“He ran a great race there last time. We took a bit of a chance running him, because we always thought he was better left-handed, but we went to Kempton for the better ground.

“He’s definitely got the abilities to run a good race, but you just have to wonder about the conditions.”

The White Mouse (centre) was a gutsy winner at Cheltenham last month
The White Mouse (centre) was a gutsy winner at Cheltenham last month (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The White Mouse will be seeking a hat-trick off a 6lb higher mark as she lines up for Lucy Wadham, having landed mares’ handicap hurdles at Wincanton and Cheltenham on her two starts this season.

Wadham said: “She’s so brave and she stays well. She’s gone up quite a lot in the weights, so she has that to contend with. But she’s in good form, we’re looking forward to it and going there with all guns blazing.

“She’s won two mares’ races this year – this is open company and what looks a very competitive race. There’s a couple of novices at the top of the betting, and it could be a tough race for them – but it’s always hard to win three on the bounce.

“I think she is quite versatile in terms of ground, we just wouldn’t want to run her on extremes. I think Barney Clifford (Kempton clerk of the course) has said it could be quite testing, but it’s the same for all of us.”

Solo is on a retrieval mission at Kempton
Solo is on a retrieval mission at Kempton (Julian Herbert/PA)

The Paul Nicholls-trained Solo must concede weight to all his 19 rivals in the hugely competitive two-mile-furlong-heat, having failed to reach the expected heights following his Grade Two win in Kempton’s Adonis Juvenile Hurdle last term.

Solo subsequently disappointed in the Triumph Hurdle and has been beaten in Grade Two and Listed company already this term, but Nicholls thinks a step up in trip could help.

He told Betfair: “He’s got plenty to do in this carrying 11st 12lb, and his mark probably needs to drop a few more pounds for him to be competitive.

“But this first try at two miles five furlongs looks more suitable, and I do expect him to come into his own next season over fences – just like Clan Des Obeaux, Tommy Silver and Frodon, who all finished in much the same place as Solo when they ran in the Triumph Hurdle.”

Amour De Nuit (far side) was edged out at Newbury in November
Amour De Nuit (far side) was edged out at Newbury in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls has a second string in Amour De Nuit, who made a fine return from a lengthy lay-off with a win at Plumpton in November before going down by less than two lengths in a competitive event at Newbury.

He added: “He could be interesting in this, ridden by the smart conditional Kevin Brogan, who impressed on his first ride for me at Taunton last month. Amour De Nuit ran very well at Newbury last time and has a chance of being in the mix again, with Kevin taking off a valuable 7lb.

Bristol De Mai set for break before Cotswold Chase

Bristol De Mai will not run again before the Cotswold Chase at the end of January after sealing his third Betfair Chase success.

Having claimed Betfair Chase glory in 2017 and 2018, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey found Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation a length and a half too strong when bidding for a hat-trick 12 months ago.

But with conditions more demanding on Merseyside this time around, Bristol De Mai emphatically reversed that form to become the second three-time winner after Tizzard’s former star Cue Card, and just one short of Kauto Star’s record-breaking four wins.

Twiston-Davies did not make the trip to Haydock, but said on Monday morning: “He’s come out of the race 100 per cent, no bother at all.

“I was very pleased and delighted with him.”

With connections deciding against entering for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, raised Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick as a possible Boxing Day alternative in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s triumph.

However, Twiston-Davies confirmed he will go straight for the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham before either returning to Prestbury Park for the Gold Cup or heading to Aintree for the Grand National.

“We won’t run him over Christmas – he’ll go for the Cotswold Chase at the end of January. He won’t go for the Rowland Meyrick,” said the Naunton-based trainer.

“We’ll see how he goes in the Cotswold Chase. If he does really well he might go for the Gold Cup, otherwise he’ll go straight to the National.

“He looks as good as ever.”

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?

“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.”

Betfair Chase Trends

Staged at Haydock Park racecourse the Betfair Chase Registered as the Lancashire Chase) is a Grade One race and is run over a slightly longer trip (3m1f). The contest is a fairly new one, being first run in 2005 and takes place in November each season.

Trainer Paul Nicholls has made the race his own, winning the decent prize 6 times in the last 12 years, including four times with Kauto Star, while in 2017 and 2018 we saw the popular grey Bristol De Mai land the pot twice and giving his trainer – Nigel Twiston-Davies – his third success in the contest. 12 months ago the Colin Tizzard camp fired in their fourth Betfair Chase winner when Lostintranslation beat Bristol De Mai.

Here at Geegeez we are on hand with all the key stats ahead of the 2020 renewal – this year run on Saturday November 21st 2020.


Recent Betfair Chase Winners

2019 - LOSTINTRANSLATION (5/4 fav)
2018 – BRISTOL DE MAI (13/2)
2017 – BRISTOL DE MAI (11/10 fav)
2016 – CUE CARD (15/8 fav)
2015 – CUE CARD (7/4)
2014 - SILVINIACO CONTI (10/3)
2013 – CUE CARD (9/1)
2011 – KAUTO STAR (6/1)
2010 – IMPERIAL COMMANDER (10/11 fav)
2009 – KAUTO STAR (4/6 fav)
2008 – SNOOPY LOOPY (33/1)
2007 – KAUTO STAR (4/5 fav)
2006 – KAUTO STAR (11/10 fav)
2005 – KINGSCLIFF (8/1)

Key Betfair Chase Betting Trends

15 Previous runnings
13/15 - Won over at least 3m (fences) previously
12/15 - Raced within the last 4 weeks
12/15 – Won by and Irish (4) or French (8) bred horse
12/15 - Placed in the top three in their last race
12/15 - Won a Grade One chase previously
11/15 - Raced at Haydock previously
10/15 - Officially rating of 168 or higher
10/15 – Favourites placed
8/15 – Aged 8 or older
8/15 - Winning distance - 2 ½ lengths or less
7/15 - Raced at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall last time out
7/15 – Won by a previous winner of the race
7/15 – Winning favourites
6/15 – Won their latest race
4/15 - Raced at Aintree last time out
The average winning price in the last 15 runnings is 5/1
The Paul Nicholls yard has won the prize in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 & 2014
The Nigel Twiston-Davies yard has won the prize in 2010, 2017 and 2018 
The Colin Tizzard yard has won the race in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019


Lostintranslation and Bristol De Mai set for Betfair rematch

Lostintranslation and Bristol De Mai remain on course for a Haydock rematch after all five horses confirmed for Saturday’s Betfair Chase stood their ground at the declaration stage.

Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation denied the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai a hat-trick in a thrilling renewal of the Grade One contest 12 months ago – and is the narrow favourite to repeat the feat on his first start since finishing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

Bristol De Mai could finish only ninth in the blue riband eight months ago, but can be expected to make more of a race of it on his return to Merseyside, where he has won four of his five starts.

Clan Des Obeaux was fourth behind Bristol De Mai in the 2018 Betfair Chase before going on to seal the first of two victories in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The Boxing Day highlight is again top of the eight-year-old’s agenda, although trainer Paul Nicholls has been making bullish noises about his chances on Saturday.

Clan Des Obeaux is bidding to add to the Ditcheat handler’s haul of six Betfair Chase wins – four of those provided by the magnificent Kauto Star.

Clan Des Obeaux represents Paul Nicholls
Clan Des Obeaux represents Paul Nicholls (Steven Paston/PA)

Bellshill landed the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown when trained by Willie Mullins.

However, the son of King’s Theatre lost his form last season and would be a surprise winner on his debut for Berwickshire-based Sandy Thomson at the age of 10.

The quintet is completed by Warren Greatrex’s outsider Keeper Hill, who does at least have the benefit of a recent outing, having finished fourth behind Clan Des Obeaux’s esteemed stable companion Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago.

Lostintranslation and Bristol De Mai poised for Betfair rematch

Last year’s one-two Lostintranslation and Bristol De Mai are among 10 entries for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 21.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai claimed the Grade One prize in both 2017 and 2018, but was denied the hat-trick by Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation 12 months ago.

Lostintranslation disappointed when well fancied for the King George VI Chase at Kempton, but bounced back to finish a close-up third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – and the race sponsors make him the narrow favourite to successfully defend his Haydock crown.

Bristol De Mai was only ninth in the Gold Cup, but can be expected to be more of a force back on Merseyside.

Nicky Henderson has entered his Gold Cup runner-up Santini, while Paul Nicholls has both dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux and Topofthegame in contention.

Clan Des Obeaux was fourth in the 2018 Betfair Chase and is on course for a return to Haydock, with long-absent stablemate Topofthegame expected to instead head for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury the following week.

Nicholls said: “Clan Des Obeaux is in great form at home and will head for the Betfair Chase.

“Physically, he seems to have improved on years past. He is working hard and is on well schedule for Haydock.

Clan Des Obeaux is an intended runner in the Betfair Chase
Clan Des Obeaux is an intended runner in the Betfair Chase (Steven Paston/PA)

“Two years ago, we went to the Betfair Chase just to put our toe in the water to see if he could run in graded races and he ran a really good race. He then went on to win the King George.

“He will be ready to put up a good performance at Haydock – there is no point going there thinking he is going to need the run. He will be ready and then that is nice timing for him to go to Kempton again on Boxing Day.”

The Richard Hobson-trained Lord Du Mesnil will be an outsider, but is a dual winner at the track.

Saint Calvados is also in the mix
Saint Calvados is also in the mix (David Davies/PA)

“Lord Du Mesnil is in good form and the Betfair Chase is a possibility,” said Hobson.

“I haven’t been able to get a run into him yet this season. He has got some entries over the weekend, but we are yet to decide if he will run.

“The Betfair Chase may therefore come too quick, but he is entered and we will make a decision nearer the time.”

Bellshill (Sandy Thompson), Keeper Hill (Warren Greatrex) and Saint Calvados (Harry Whittington) are the other British contenders, with Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard the sole Irish-trained entrant.

Race Histories 12: The Becher Chase

Hello Bud - age no barrier in the Becher

Hello Bud - age no barrier in the Becher

The Grand National fences have their first test of the season on Saturday, when the Becher chase is run over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Aintree. The race starts immediately after Valentines Brook, so is just shy of one and a half circuits of the National Course. Read more