Things We Learned » Can Bristol repeat Haydock performance?

Can Bristol repeat Haydock performance?

It is difficult to precisely evaluate the performance that Bristol De Mai put up in winning the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.  It was good, for sure, it was very good, but exactly how good and, as importantly, how good are the chances that he can reproduce it?  Away from Haydock?

He won by 57 lengths, he beat the 168-rated Cue Card by 57 lengths, with the 166-rated (in Britain) Outlander nine more lengths back in third, and the 164-rated Tea For Two another half a length back in fourth.

On the face of it, on that evidence, you could conclude that those three horses ran close to expectations relative to each other, that they ran to form relative to each other.  And Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse was two distances ahead of them.

Visually, it was seriously impressive.  You could have called Bristol De Mai as by far the most likely winner as they started down the back straight final time, and he just drew further and further clear, jumping and galloping with metronomic relentlessness for Daryl Jacob as, one by one, his rivals came off the bridle and wilted.

And the winning time was very good, 10 and a half seconds faster than the time that that 139-rated Chase The Spud clocked in the concluding handicap chase run over the same course and distance 35 minutes later, carrying the same weight, and 0.17secs/furlong faster than Racing Post par.

There are qualifications though.  While it is unlikely that three high-class horses can under-perform at the same time, it is probable that, in this instance, they did. Cue Card just isn’t the horse that he was, Outlander made a mistake at the fifth last fence and just wasn’t as good as he had been at Down Royal, and Tea For Two just isn’t at his best on that ground.

By contrast, Bristol De Mai had everything in his favour: soft ground, flat track, Haydock.  He just loves it at Haydock, he is three for three there now.

Initial conclusion was that it was probably a performance that is restricted to Haydock, restricted to soft ground at Haydock.  That if the King George were run on soft ground at Haydock, he would have a massive chance, but on better ground at Kempton, maybe not.

But the alternative view is also worth considering.  The Saddler Maker gelding won the Charlie Hall Chase on his debut this season on ground that was soft, but not heavy like Saturday, and at Wetherby, not Haydock.  That run was up there with the best of his career, and it was away from Haydock, away from heavy ground.  That run may well have been the best of his career, until he surpassed it on Saturday.  So he is not just a one-track pony.

And he is only six years old – difficult to believe, it seems like he has been around for ages – he could just be a seriously progressive staying steeplechaser now.

Kempton is not Haydock, the fences come at you harder and faster at Kempton than they do at Haydock, you don’t have the time that you have at Haydock to organise yourself.  And Kempton is right-handed, not left-handed.  However, it is flat, like Haydock is.  Also, Bristol De Mai’s record going right-handed over fences reads 2112.  All four runs were admittedly in small fields, and one of the 2s was in a two-horse race at Carlisle, but even so, it may be that he doesn’t have to go left.

The ground at Kempton during the winter is generally better than it is at Haydock during the winter, but we still do get soft ground King Georges and, if we happened to get one this year, Bristol De Mai could have a big chance of winning it.

Some weekend for owners Munir and Souede

Last weekend was some weekend for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.  Bristol De Mai was obviously the headline act, but Bristol De Mai was one of five runners that the owners had in Britain on Saturday, and two of the other four won too. 

Top Notch was really impressive in winning the Grade 2 Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot, while Delire D’Estruval stayed on strongly to win the listed novices’ hurdle that opened proceedings at Haydock, appearing to appreciate the forcing tactics that Daryl Jacob employed, combined with the drop back down to two miles.

That’s three winners from five runners on a hugely competitive Saturday afternoon.  As well as that, L’Ami Serge ran a big race in the Ascot Hurdle on his first run since he won the French Champion Hurdle in June, keeping on to take second place, just a length and a half behind Lil Rockerfeller.

Then on Sunday at Auteuil, the owners won the three-year-old fillies’ conditions’ hurdle with Raffles Sun, and they won the Grade 3 four-year-olds’ chase with Edward D’Argent, while Crack De Reve finished second in the Grade 2 hurdle.  Also, Dragon D’Estruval, whom they own in partnership with Madame Bernard Le Gentil, won the four-year-olds’ conditions chase.

That’s six winners in two days, including a Grade 1, a Grade 2 and a Grade 3.  That’s a good weekend in anybody’s language.  And all with young horses.  None of those winners was older than six.  Exciting times.

Troytown win was no more than Mala deserved

Mala Beach was very good in winning the Troytown Chase at Navan on Sunday.  Chris Jones’ horse always travelled well for Davy Russell, and he never missed a beat.  Russell excelled once again, he bided his time, he allowed the leaders get away from him a little as they raced down the back straight, no doubt fully cognisant of the fact that it is a long way from the middle of the back straight to the winning line at Navan at the end of November.

Mala Beach picked up the leaders early in the home straight and, while Dont Tell No One came at him from the final fence, he stayed on powerfully, he ran through the line and the front two came clear. 

It was a fine training performance by Gordon Elliott, firstly to land his fourth Troytown Chase in as many years, and secondly to get Mala Beach back into this type of form.  And it was an exercise in extreme patience by owner Chris Jones, with whom Mala Beach spent his recuperation time just 20 minutes down the road in Dunsany, while he was recovering from the operation that he had to undergo in order to remove a chip from his knee.

Sunday’s run was just the Beneficial gelding’s second run back after the operation.  And the quality of his first run back, when he finished a close-up second behind A Genie In Abottle at Galway in October, promised that there was the possibility of a performance like this.  He was only just beaten in a Thyestes Chase, and he probably would have won a Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase had he not come down at the second last fence, so he deserved to land a big prize like this one.

The handicapper raised him by 8lb to a mark of 156, and it is difficult to argue with that assessment.  The three horses who filled the first three places in the Bobbyjo Chase were rated in the 150s, the first two, Boston Bob and On His Own, were rated 155.

That type of rating puts Mala Beach on the coat tails of the top staying chasers in the country.  He has a little bit more to go if he is to be a Grade 1 contender but, he could be an improved horse now with the chip in his knee removed and, on soft ground, he could be a Grade 1 horse.  Despite what they tell you, it is a fair step from the top of the handicap tree into Grade 1 company, but Mala Beach could make that step.

Sam continues to progress

Sam Spinner could also make that step.  Jedd O’Keeffe’s horse put up a scintillating performance to land the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, the old Fixed Brush Hurdle, at Haydock on Saturday.

Interestingly, it all looked a little precarious for Sam Spinner before the start of the race.  Lined up, as he was, towards the outside, no more than a medium-sized putt away from the first turn, and front-runner that he is, he looked set to lose significant ground on the run around the first turn.  Fortunately, he broke into a jog under Joe Colliver, with the result that the starter had no option but to call a false start. 

He lined up again, standing start, a little closer to the inside, and he was away and gone as soon as the tape flew and he was settled into a nice even rhythm in front before the reached the first flight.  After that, he didn’t see another rival until his rider pulled him up after crossing the winning line.

Colliver was very good on him, he got him settled and jumping and rolling, and when the rider gave his horse a squeeze at the third last flight, he came clear of his rivals. 

Sam Spinner is only five and this was just his sixth run over hurdles, and his first over three miles.  He had shaped on his previous run in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow as if he might appreciate going up in trip, and he is bred for stamina, so it was not surprising that he appeared to relish every extra yard.

Incidentally, that Silver Trophy is working out really well.  This sixth Louis’ Vac Pouch was impressive in winning a Pertemps qualifier at Aintree next time, the seventh Old Guard beat San Benedeto in a listed hurdle race at Kempton next time, and the eighth, Bags Groove, has since won twice and is now rated 12lb higher than he was then, while the 10th, Drumcliff, won a handicap chase at Wincanton last Thursday.

Also, the fourth, Wholestone, split Colin’s Sister and Lil Rockerfeller in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, and ran in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury yesterday, and the 12th, Milrow, ran a cracker to finish second to Thomas Campbell in another Pertemps qualifier at Cheltenham’s October meeting.

Sam Spinner has now won five of his eight races and finished second in the other three.  He has never been out of the first two in those eight races, two bumpers and three hurdle races. 

He has form on good to soft ground as well as on the soft ground that he encountered on Saturday, but he does appear to be at his best with a distance of ground.  The handicapper raised him by 16lb to a mark of 155, and that puts him within hailing distance of the best staying hurdlers around.

Quiz time

Question: At the five-day stage for tomorrow’s Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase, five of the entries were owned by Gigginstown House Stud, two were trained by Willie Mullins and four were trained by Gordon Elliott.  How many entries were there in the race in total at the five-day stage?

(a) Six                       

(b) Eight            

(c) Eleven           

(d) It doesn’t matter, only two matter anyway (or maybe three)

© The Irish Field, 2nd December 2017