The race Bristol De Mai did not run in could be the deciding factor in the Cotswold Chase – 2.20 Sandown. He’s a horse who needs very long breaks after a top performance. His top performance is invariably at Haydock each November in The Betfair Chase.
When he wins The Betfair it’s with a stunning display of jumping and galloping and he can leave the impression it hasn’t taken much out of him. But I’m pretty sure it costs him a huge amount physically; it’s simple logic that it would do so. Despite that, his trainer used to take him to the King George the following month. Last season he did not, though not for being wiser; Bristol De Mai had finished 2nd in The Betfair and Nigel Twiston-Davies said there was no point going to Kempton as the £1m bonus had been blown.
So, as with this season, he waited for this, The Cotswold Chase, run at its usual venue, Cheltenham. He ran a fine race to finish 2nd giving 2lbs to the winner Santini. He meets Santini again today at level weights, but it’s the track more than the weight difference that pushes me toward Bristol De Mai.
The only horse in today’s race with a top Racing Post Rating going right handed is Yala Enki. Saint Calvados ran at Kempton last time to score a decent rating, third best of his career, but I cannot see him getting the trip today. He faded late at Kempton on his first attempt at 3 miles (King George), and though he looked to be pegging back Min when second in the Ryanair, his run faltered close home.
Santini’s best run right handed ranks just 5th in his performances, and when he scraped home at Sandown last season he ran 18lbs below his best overall run. I wonder too if Henderson is cooling a bit on Santini’s Gold Cup prospects. Coleman rides today rather than usual pilot Nico De Boinville, reportedly with a view to making jockey choices for the Gold Cup. Nico rides Champ at Newbury next week. Also, Santini has been entered in the Grand National, not a typical Henderson entry for one he believes can win a Gold Cup. Anyway, that doesn’t mean he cannot win today, but on the balance of track and trainer actions (he condemned Sandown’s ground not long ago as treacle that might have done untold damage to Altior), I’ll give him a miss.
Native River is a wonderful horse with a perfect attitude. But his best right handed performance (Kempton) is 13lbs below his top performance. Like Yala Enki, he probably wants farther these days anyway, despite the heavy ground.
Lake View Lad sprung a surprise last time when beating Santini and Native River at Aintree. But 9 of the 19 fences were omitted that day (low sun). And he hasn’t run right handed for more than 5 years. This is his 20th run for trainer Nick Alexander; all 19 previous runs were left handed.
That leaves just Yala Enki, a wonderful horse, probably the toughest I’ve known. Hugely consistent and ultra brave in humping massive weights through mud, I’d love to own him, and were this race 4 furlongs longer, he’d be my selection. This is his first run for more than two years at 3 miles. His best form by far is over farther. The top ratings of his career came last month when winning at Taunton over 3m4f (right handed) and finishing 3rd at Chepstow in the Welsh National over 3m6f. His key assets are stamina and courage, and while the second will always be there, I cannot see a horse who needs a full half mile extra to show his best winning in this company today.
So, almost by default, that leaves Bristol De Mai, whose right handed record has, I think, been stained by those King George runs when he was still buggered from The Betfair. His last run at Sandown was on this card in 2016 when he won The Scilly Isles. Since then he’s been campaigned left handed bar the two King George runs.
Talking of The Scilly Isles 1.50, this is some lineup, due perhaps to some Shishkin shirkers. It’s arguably the race of the day and I’ll be backing Messire Des Obeaux, who was hugely impressive at Wincanton last time. He’s had lengthy training troubles; we can only hope he stays sound. It’s worth tuning in just to watch him – one of the best looking steeplechasers I’ve seen. He can be backed at around 4/1; Bristol De Mai at 5/2
Good luck. Go easy on stakes. These are fun bets only.
All the best.