57 lengths: Bristol De Mai blows Grade 1 field apart to set up Triple Crown bid
'What a great race' said the MC as the winner came back in. Well it was certainly great but it wasn't much of a race.
The Betfair Chase was more the Betfair procession. You could tell that just by listening to the crowd. The only slight crescendo came when Bristol De Mai made his sole semblance of a jumping error, getting slightly close to the second-last fence and raising a gasp from the stands.
Those watching had almost been stunned into dumb silence by that point as the remarkable six-year-old did it again at a track where he is awesomely effective.
He'd won a novice chase by 32 lengths here in January 2016 and came home 22 lengths clear in the Peter Marsh back at Haydock 12 months later.
His final margin was an astonishing 57 lengths, 14.21 seconds on the clock – an average club runner could have run the 100 metres in the time it took for three-time former winner Cue Card to cross the line in second.
The winning margin is easily the biggest in a Grade 1 in Britain or Ireland since the turn of the century, Apple's Jade having been at the top of that list for the past 18 months.
"That was quite excellent," said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, almost unnecessarily.
"He made a slight mistake at the second-last, well no he didn't, he just put himself right. It's a shame Sizing John wasn't here to see how he was."
Bristol De Mai was only seventh at Cheltenham last March but Twiston-Davies stressed: "He's quite a fragile horse and he went wrong at Newbury last season and we probably didn't have him quite right for the Gold Cup.
"There was a rush as he hurt his off-fore fetlock and it was a battle to get him there, and he got there possibly not as good as he can be. He's one to look after."
Which is not to say that he'll now be wrapped in cotton wool until the spring, not when there is a £1 million bonus to claim if he can add victory in the King George and Gold Cup.
"We'll be thinking about the King George quite definitely," the trainer said. "Being Kempton it possibly won't be this ground but he's got the engine and can go faster than that."
Asked about the likely ground at Cheltenham, he added: "I'm not worried about that; if you've got an engine like that you can do it anywhere, can't you?"
Jacob has been on board for all bar one of Bristol De Mai's eight British wins and said: "He's a wonderful horse, we've thought a lot of him since he won the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle around Chepstow.
"He has a lovely turn of gear in this sort of ground and he's a good jumper as well."
Owners Isaac Souede and Simon Munir have had plenty of success but Munir said: "We've had winners at the Cheltenham Festival but that eclipses everything we've done – when the judge said 57 lengths, I thought she meant 27 lengths!"
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