Bristol De Mai primed to silence the doubters in Betfair Chase hat-trick bid
Betfair Chase (Grade 1) | 3m1/2f | ITV/RTV
There is no substitute for proven form and when it comes to the first British Grade 1 of the season Bristol De Mai's record could hardly be stronger.
The winner by an astonishing 57 lengths in 2017, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey followed up last season with a determined five-length victory over 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River and returns this year bidding for a hat-trick.
Should the eight-year-old achieve the feat, Bristol De Mai will graduate into the upper echelons of the race's history books, drawing level with Cue Card and one step closer to the peerless Kauto Star, who captured the £200,000 contest on four occasions.
Speaking on Friday, Twiston-Davies said: "He's in just the same form as he was before the race last year and is not just proven and Haydock – he's proven everywhere."
The winner of all four of his starts at Haydock by a combined 115 lengths, Bristol De Mai was an excellent third behind Al Boum Photo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March but you have to go back to Wetherby in November 2017 for his last win away from the Merseyside track.
"He's been one of the best chasers around for some time now and we're really looking forward to it," Twiston-Davies added.
Ballyoptic is the outsider of the four-runner field but arrives race-fit and in good form off the back of victories at Chepstow and in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
That was the nine-year-old's second Grade 2 victory over fences and, while he may fall short of his three rivals on ratings, his trainer is not discounting a big display.
"I'm hoping for a good performance," Twiston-Davies said. "He's been improving all this season and could outrun his odds."
Bristol De Mai pros Dual winner with pedigree over Haydock's daunting fences
Bristol De Mai cons Lacks consistent brilliance
Ballyoptic pros Has race fitness on his side
Ballyoptic cons May lack the quality of his rivals
Lostintranslation ready for next step
Joe Tizzard believes Lostintranslation is a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender and is relishing taking the next step up the chasing ladder against the Betfair Chase's best in Bristol De Mai.
The up-and-coming seven-year-old is the same age as former Tizzard inmate Cue Card when he won the first of his three Betfair Chases in 2013, and is in peak condition as he prepares to make his first start in a Grade 1 chase outside of novice company.
"We think he's a Gold Cup horse and he's ready to take the next step," Tizzard said. "He's just where we want him and this step is the natural progression of his career and we're excited about running him. He's in good form and I really haven't got too many worries about him. It's just whether he's ready to step forward.
"He and Cue Card are completely different types of horses. Cue Card was a much smaller horse while he is a big, strong, robust chaser, so physically there are no real comparisons."
Second to the classy Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices' Chase, Lostintranslation ended last season with a resounding six-length defeat of RSA Chase winner Topofthegame in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree.
A sparkling jumping display on his reappearance at Carlisle looked to be the perfect preparation, but he will need to prove he can handle Haydock as his only previous start at the track ended in a 35-length defeat to First Flow over hurdles last year.
"He was impressive at Aintree," Tizzard added. "He had a lovely prep at Carlisle, which we couldn't have been happier with, and now we look forward to taking on some of the best, and in this race Bristol De Mai certainly is one of the best.
"He's a great jumper and has the benefit of having run over two and a half at Cheltenham where his jumping held together well. He's got more time over three miles so I'd be surprised if his jumping was a problem."
Pros The likely improver and a fine jumper
Cons A distant last on his only previous start at Haydock
Underestimate Frodon at your peril
Boasting first-rate Grade 1 form and a seemingly telepathic relationship with his jockey Bryony Frost, it seems odd that Frodon may well be the forgotten horse.
Trainer Paul Nicholls is keeping the faith with the Ryanair Chase winner, despite a disappointing seasonal reappearance in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last month. He now steps back up to three miles for the first time since his Cotswold Chase success at Cheltenham in January.
Nicholls is no stranger to Betfair Chase success, with four-time hero Kauto Star and dual winner Silviniaco Conti making him the race's winningmost trainer since its inception in 2005.
He said: "He had the run at Aintree because he needed a race in preparation for this. He's tightened up for that and we've taken him for an away day since then too, just to progress him."
Frodon will once again be ridden by regular partner Bryony Frost, with whom he won four of his five races last season, headlined by the pair's memorable success in March.
Rated only 1lb shy of Bristol De Mai on official ratings, Paul Vogt's popular chaser won a Cheltenham handicap in January 2018 on heavy ground but Nicholls feels Frodon will be better served should the rain stay away from Merseryside.
"Hopefully the ground won't be too testing," he added. "At the end of the day he's a Grade 1 winner and he has to be in there with a shout."
Pros Relationship with Bryony Frost and fearless at his fences
Cons Ground could turn against him
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