What a progressive animal last week’s winner of The Charlie Hall Chase, Bristol De Mai is! He came to the second last absolutely cruising, but, not getting it perfect, he seemed to idle as his stable companion Blaklion, in receipt of 6lbs rallied, and came with a strong looking challenge. The 6/1 shot responded in the gamest fashion, and was comfortably in charge at the line, leaving followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves. He looks to be a horse very much on the up, and antepost backers could do worse than take the 4/1 available for his next assignment, The Bet Fair Chase at Haydock, run over the course and distance where the Twiston-Davies gelding, cruised home by 22l from Otago Trail last January.
Paul Nicholls has won The Badgers Ale Trophy seven times, and indeed was very unlucky not to make it eight, when his contender, Southfield Theatre, toppled over at the last with the race at his mercy in last year’s renewal. He fields three runners, including the unlucky Southfield Theatre this time, and none of them can be easily dismissed. The aforementioned has only run the once since his unfortunate fall, finishing tailed off behind Theatre Guide at Cheltenham in December, but in his favour he is only 3lbs higher than last year.
The second Ditcheat runner, is the 6yo Mr Mix who boasts a 100% record on the track from his two course appearances, and he gained that second course win in workmanlike fashion over 3m2 1/2f at the venue thirteen days ago (Class3 Handicap good). That was only his fourth outing over fences and he had last year’s Badger Ales Victor, Gentleman Jon six and a quarter lengths back in third. This young French bred was rated on 141 over hurdles but has clearly found his metier steeplechasing, and if turning up on Saturday has to be seriously considered off a mark of 144.
We can assume that the third of the Nicholls contenders, Present Man, will be as ready as the master of Ditcheat can get him, as he is owned by the Chairman of the sponsoring brewery, Mark Wood, who would dearly love to repeat his victory in 2010 which he won with the Nicholls trained Meanus Dandy. Present Man only got as far as the second fence in last years renewal where he unseated claimer Jack Sherwood, but put up an excellent effort next time under the same rider winning a solidly run Novices Chase at Ascot by 1 3/4L from the useful Dark Flame. By Presenting out of a Strong Gale mare he was always going to be a chaser so rated 7lbs above his hurdles mark of 135, he looks well treated. Sure to have benefited from a nice pipe opener twenty days ago, winning a 2m5f Kempton Novices Hurdle under Bryony Frost, he looks one for the shortlist.
The Fergal O’Brien trained Master Dee also holds an engagement at Aintree at the weekend but if running here has to be of interest. Not the most consistent of jumpers, the fact that he has never finished out of the first three in all ten races over fences, speaks volumes for his powers of recuperation. He put in an excellent effort last October to beat the now rated 155, San Benedetto at Ascot, and he put in another decent performance last time, finishing third in a 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen Handicap which is working out well. The runner up, Guitar Pete, won by seven lengths at Wetherby last Friday, and the fourth home, Play The Ace won at Stratford on Thursday, all of which makes Master Dee look a well handicapped animal on a mark of 145. Saturday’s trip is a slight concern but he was only beaten a neck over the distance in a Warwick Chase, and has won a three mile point to point and a three miles and half a furlong hurdle race.
Neil Mulholland was unlucky to have the 2014 renewal taken off him when The Young Master was disqualified on a technicality, but perhaps compensation awaits with his 7yo, Pilgrims Bay. Well suited by going right handed, the 7yo put in his best effort last term when winning a valuable Grade3 Kempton Handicap (3mGood) last February off a mark of 130. He disappointed at The Cheltenham Festival but as he has never won going left handed can be forgiven. Saturday’s mark of 140, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9 looks fair, and he could be the one to put the smile back on his excellent trainers face.
Selection: Present Man
E.W. : Master Dee (if abs Pilgrims Bay)