Aggrieved Twiston-Davies puts Bristol De Mai firmly on course for Gold Cup

Chris Cook
The Guardian

Bristol De Mai is being underestimated once more, Nigel Twiston-Davies said on Sunday as he reflected on the grey’s effort in Saturday’s Cotswold Chase, in which he was second to Santini. “I think he’s every bit as good as that one,” the Naunton trainer said, plainly aggrieved that the winner is a 7-1 shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March while his horse is available at 50-1 with one firm.

“He just tripped on landing after the third-last, which probably cost him the race, I thought,” Twiston-Davies added. “He jumped the fence beautifully but landed and then put his foot in a hole or something.

Related: Paisley Park odds-on for Cheltenham’s Stayers Hurdle after Trials Day win

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“He was in front and then suddenly he was two lengths behind. He had to fight all the way back and that was his winning burst gone.

“I see Santini’s 6-1 or 7-1 for the Gold Cup but we were giving him 2lb and had a bit of a whats-it. It looked like we had him beat at the third-last.”

It is not new for Bristol De Mai’s treatment at the hands of the betting market to be the cause of some resentment chez Twiston-Davies. “Our horses are always underestimated in the betting,” the trainer told the Guardian in 2017, shortly after his star had won the Betfair Chase for the first time.

Now nine, the grey has an alternative Festival entry in the Ryanair Chase but Twiston-Davies left no doubt that he wants to run him again in the Gold Cup, in which he did best of the British runners when third a year ago. “Definitely, got to be,” he replied when asked if the Gold Cup was the target.

Twiston-Davies versus Nicky Henderson has been a theme of the last two Saturdays’ action and the Naunton man came out on top last weekend when his Ballyandy pipped Pentland Hills on the line at Haydock. On Saturday, the Lambourn man got his revenge through Santini and also with Mister Fisher, who beat Al Dancer at Doncaster.

“In hindsight we could have kicked on earlier,” Twiston-Davies said of Al Dancer, who will now go straight to the Arkle Trophy on the opening day at the Festival. He hopes the Cheltenham hill will help both that one and Ballyandy, who will take his chance in the Champion Hurdle.

Twiston-Davies’s mood may not have improved if he heard Henderson refer to Bristol De Mai as “a very solid benchmark” on RacingTV on Sunday morning. However, Henderson added: “Seeing Santini and Bristol De Mai jumping round there is what it’s all about. They’re two real good steeplechasers, jumpers of fences, and they put up a great display.”

Henderson also suggested that the Grand National could be on the agenda for Ok Corral, who won for the first time in a year in Saturday’s Great Yorkshire Chase, now named the Sky Bet. “It would have to cross your mind. It certainly crossed mine,” Henderson said when asked if Aintree rather than Cheltenham could be the aim for that horse.

“He hasn’t got a lot of experience but he didn’t go to chasing till he was eight. As a young horse he was very hard to keep sound, he was very big and raw. We had to mind him very carefully. It was virtually one run a year and little bits were creaking.

“But he’s had a good run at it now for a couple of seasons and he’s a very trainable horse. I wouldn’t rule it out, personally, but that’s entirely down to JP [McManus, owner].”

Meanwhile Jonjo O’Neill Jr has landed the plum ride on Native River for next month’s Denman Chase, replacing the injured Richard Johnson, and will keep the ride for the Gold Cup if the champion jockey is still sidelined by injury then. “He might be a conditional but he’s a polished young man,” said the trainer, Colin Tizzard.

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Plumpton 1.30 Cap Du Mathan 2.00 Wenceslaus 2.30 Cat Tiger 3.00 Hideaway Vic 3.30 Bill And Barn 4.00 Hymn And A Prayer

Wolverhampton 4.30 Percy Prosecco 5.00 Egotistic 5.30 Seaforth 6.00 Badayel 6.30 Mount Wellington (nb) 7.00 Exceed Loose 7.30 Dolla Dolla Bill

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