The thirteenth running of the Betfair Chase was dealt a big blow early last week

Reigning Gold Cup winner Sizing John was ruled out due to the predicted heavy ground

The thirteenth running of the Betfair Chase was dealt a big blow early last week

Reigning Gold Cup winner Sizing John was ruled out due to the predicted heavy ground

However the field was still a representative one, with Cue Card Horseform – who was bidding for a record-equalling fourth win in the race – one of three runners who had scored at Grade 1 level in 2017, the others being Outlander Horseform and Tea For Two Horseform.

Cue Card winning the Betfair Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Lancashire Chase)
Cue Card winning the Betfair Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Lancashire Chase) Picture:Pat Healy Photography

All three of those runners underperformed significantly on the day, however, with Cue Card (down 7 lb to 166) looking a shadow of the horse that had won the race the previous season and Outlander (165) continuing his up-and-down profile with a rather awkward display to follow on from his Grade 1 win at Down Royal three weeks prior. Tea For Two (166) seemed to find the extreme test at the trip too much, and overall the race is hard to rate with absolute confidence.

Outlander Picture:Pat Healy Photography

That said, a time comparison with the concluding handicap chase won by Chase The Spud Horseform (143) carrying exactly the same weight would suggest that the winner Bristol de Mai certainly put up a performance that was into the 170s on the Timeform scale, which is right up with the five-year standards of the Betfair Chase. Bristol de Mai is now Timeform rated 173+ and took his record at Haydock Park to three wins from three starts, a winning aggregate of 111 lengths saying plenty about his affinity for the test that is provided at Haydock during the winter months. He will now reportedly go for the King George which promises to be a much deeper Grade 1 and pose much different questions altogether, though any rain is sure to only help his chances.

Tea For Two
Tea For Two Picture:Pat Healy Photography

The same number of runners had lined up for the graduation chase earlier on the card, which was won by second-season chaser Clan des Obeaux (up 5 lb to 156+), who is clearly still progressing as he comfortably beat a field of useful rivals with a good round of jumping. Vintage Clouds (140) was second and will be suited by a return to three miles or further.

The feature handicap on the card was the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, formerly the Fixed Brush Hurdle, though the switch of obstacles did no harm to the field size or competitiveness of the race on paper, with a field of 16 lining up. In the event the race was much less competitive, however, with plenty not handling the extreme conditions on offer in a race that was run at an end-to-end gallop thanks to the winner Sam Spinner Horseform (up 14 lb to 155), who made all under a very positive ride. He’s due a big hike in the weights but may well continue improving given his current profile (record over hurdles reads 121121). The others were well beaten off though the second The Dutchman (138) showed improved form on his first start for Colin Tizzard.

The first of a pair of Grade 2 races at Ascot on Saturday, the 1965 Chase, went to another improver in Top Notch (up 2 lb to 163), who put a disappointing return well behind him to win by eight lengths. A progressive and likable sort, he will remain of interest wherever he goes (won’t be the King George according to his owner, who also owns Bristol de Mai). In behind, Double Shuffle (up 1 lb to 152) ran well up in grade and is likely to be better back around three miles in something like the Grand Sefton (took well to the National fences last spring).

The other feature at Ascot was the Coral Hurdle which went to Lil Rockerfeller (162), who didn’t have to be at his best to go one better than he had in last year’s renewal. The big story of the race was the disappointment of last year’s standout juvenile Defi du Seuil (loses his ‘p’, remains on 151), who produced a tame effort as he lost his unbeaten record over hurdles. He’s clearly worth another chance to prove that he is better than this.

We didn’t learn much from the return of Min Horseform (now 170p) at Gowran Park on Saturday but he proved his wellbeing on his first start since being met with a setback last season. His easy Racing Post Novices’ Chase win from last term has been franked since, with Ryanair Gold Cup winner Road To Respect and Arkle third Ordinary World filling the places, and he remains an exciting prospect.

Min had won the previous renewal of the beginners chase on Sunday’s card at Navan and Al Boum Photo gave Willie Mullins a fifth successive win in the race which he’d also won with Vautour and Douvan. Al Boum Photo (142p) doesn’t have the reputation of those horses yet, but he was a Grade 2-winning novice hurdler last season and justified strong market support to make a pleasing start over fences.

Others to note on the Navan card included the exciting Samcro Horseform (148P), who won the Monksfield Hurdle with plenty in hand to maintain his unbeaten record, looking one of the best novices seen in the division so far. Gordon Elliott also won the feature Troytown Handicap Chase with Mala Beach (up 6 lb to 158), taking a fourth successive renewal in the process. Red-hot favourite Acapella Bourgeois was an early casualty but Mala Beach was better than ever and could have more to offer at staying trips (less exposed than most his age).

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