It's time for Tea to show he can perform on left-handed course
Betway Bowl Chase | 3m1f | Grade 1 | 5yo+ | ITV/RUK
Tea For Two, whose Cheltenham Gold Cup challenge ended just after it began, gets a chance to show what might have happened had he stayed on his feet as well as putting paid to the notion he is not as effective on a left-handed course.
His winning exploits had earned his jockey Lizzie Kelly the chance to become only the second female rider to take part in the Gold Cup but their race ended in frustration when she was unseated by the horse's blunder at the second fence.
On his best performance this season Tea For Two finished a short head and a head behind Cue Card in the King George VI Chase won by Thistlecrack but that was at Kempton, one of four right-handed courses over which he has registered all his eight wins.
Trainer Nick Williams said: "You would like to think Aintree will suit. He has never won on a left-handed course but the track should be okay.
"He has run well at Newbury in bumper races and over hurdles and we are trying to put the left-handed, right-handed bias to bed. Why shouldn't he run well on a flat left-handed course?"
'Why Cue Card is around 6-4 and he's 10-1 is beyond me'
Silviniaco Conti split Cue Card and Tea For Two in the King George and is a two-time winner of the Betway Bowl but is winless this season and was beaten a distance on his last appearance in the Cotswold Chase.
He would become the first three-time winner of the race if he scores and would secure a valuable prize-money boost for trainer Paul Nicholls, who has already won the race four times, in his trainers' title battle with Nicky Henderson.
Nicholls said: "He was always coming here and I wish I hadn't run him in the bad ground at Cheltenham in January really, though it doesn't matter now.
"He loves this track, having won on it twice and been second, and he'll love the ground. He looks great and had a nice gallop at Wincanton last week. He's in good shape and remember he was beaten only a short head in the King George by Cue Card.
"Why Cue Card is around 6-4 and he's 10-1 is beyond me. He's not getting any younger, but the same applies to Cue Card. He loves being fresh and I think he'll run very well. It's an open-looking race and we are hopeful."
Bristol De Mai represents the Gold Cup form and was the highest-placed finisher at seventh of those who ran competing here.
His best form is on a softer surface than he is likely to encounter but trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies expects him to run well if he can iron out the jumping errors that undermined his Gold Cup challenge.
"He ran all right in the Gold Cup but just made errors at the wrong time," said the trainer. "He would prefer it softer but he is having another go."
Place chance for King
The race's other grey Smad Place finished one place and seven lengths behind Bristol De Mai in the Gold Cup.
Trainer Alan King said: ”Smad Place seems in good form at home and he finished fourth in this race two years ago. I thought he ran well for a long way in the Gold Cup, but three and a quarter miles around Cheltenham does seem to stretch his stamina and this will be less of a test on the Mildmay course.”
Aso out to back up Ryanair run
Aso moves up to three miles after running well at Cheltenham when finish third in the Ryanair Chase behind Un De Sceaux and a place in front of Empire Of Dirt.
Trainer Venetia Williams said: "It's as competitive as you would expect but I'm hoping he can back up his Ryanair run with another good run. He has continued to be progressive this season and deserves to be in the line-up."