Bristol will be ready at his favourite track
The Betfair Chase takes centre stage at Haydock on Saturday and as has come to be expected, it represents the first big examination of the staying chase division of the season in the UK. One of the most fascinating aspects of this stage of the season is seeing the best novices from last season dive into open waters against the established stars and seeing how they swim. This year's Betfair Chase will see such a test unfold and it promises to be riveting viewing.
The established star in this case is the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai. Everyone knows the craic with Bristol De Mai at this stage. He is a very good horse on any day of the week, but he seems to be a particularly good horse if that day happens to be one where he is running at Haydock. The eight-year-old is unbeaten in four starts there and his aggregate winning margin in those wins is literally 115 lengths!
Given that the first three of those wins came on ground that Timeform called heavy or soft, the long-standing theory was that it was the Haydock mud he was particularly effective on, but then he went and blew that notion out of the water by producing one of the very best efforts of his career when winning this race 12 months ago on ground that Timeform called good.
Thus, it seems to be that Bristol De Mai is just very effective around Haydock regardless of the ground conditions. Of course, this is no secret and indeed his connections have seemed to have leaned into it in recent seasons, looking to have him very much wound up for the last two renewals of the Betfair Chase whilst some of his rivals are likely to be have been trained more so with other longer-term targets in mind.
One can be sure that Twiston-Davis has Bristol De Mai as ready as he can get him for this and with the yard being in such good form (11 winners at a 23% strike rate thus far in November), he looks to set the bar very high for his rivals and is a deserving favourite.
Lostintranslation is arguably the star of the show
However, this isn't a one-horse show. Indeed, Bristol De Mai arguably isn't the star attraction at Haydock on Saturday. We know how good he is and what he is capable of, particularly at Haydock. If he does it again and gains a sensational third consecutive victory in the race, it is unlikely to tell us something we don't already know about him.
In contrast, the very high bar that Bristol De Mai sets for his opposition will very much test the credentials of the Colin Tizzard-trained Lostintranslation as a top-class staying chaser.
It is hard to believe that a little less than a year separates Bristol De Mai and Lostintranslation in age, but they have taken very different paths to this point in their careers. Bristol De Mai won a Grade 1 hurdle when he was not much more than three-and-a-half years old and has been competing at the highest level since then, whereas Lostintranslation has been brought along much, much more steadily.
Even last season during his novice chase campaign there was a strong element of Tizzard minding him and cajoling him along, not consenting to allow him to run over the three-mile trip that he so looked in need of until his very last start of the season in the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree.
There, Lostintransation gave every indication that he would prove to be worth the wait, as he produced a highly-impressive performance in victory. While his main rival Topofthegame looked to run flat on the day, Lostintranslation ticked all the boxes in what he did and very much whetted the appetite for what he might do when allowed more opportunities to express himself over three miles and further this season.
Having given us just a little look at Lostintranslation over the longer trip at Aintree, Tizzard went back into tease mode by dropping him back to two-and-a-half miles for his seasonal return at Carlisle earlier this month. Mind, even if the trip was short of his best, Lostintranslation still managed to create a very good impression in victory.
It wasn't a career best in form terms by any means, but his jumping that had been a significant positive feature of his novice chase campaign looked better than ever. He put in an exhibition of neat, efficient jumping and also showed how good he can be when on a long stride too. It really was a tremendously good round of jumping.
So, after all the patience that everyone that has been involved with Lostintranslation has shown over the years, he finally gets his chance to shine in an open Grade 1 chase at Haydock this Saturday. While his main rival Bristol De Mai will be having his 10th run in such company and brings a formidable course record to the table, there will be plenty that will believe Lostintranslation will be up to the task.
The height of the bar that a top-form Bristol De Mai sets is high enough that Lostintranslation could be beaten by him and still go on to be a major competitor in the division later in the season. However, if Bristol De Mai brings his A-game and Lostintranslation can get the better of him, there is no doubt whatsoever that we will have a new favourite for the Gold Cup. It promises to be a fascinating contest.