Nigel Twiston-Davies has refuted suggestions Bristol De Mai is not as effective at Cheltenham ahead of the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at the venue today.
The grey has so far reserved his best performances for Haydock, none more so than when a runaway winner of the Betfair Chase, while he has also won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
However, the Naunton handler points to his last two appearances at the Cheltenham Festival, when beaten just three lengths in the JLT Novices’ Chase and running well for a long way in last year’s Gold Cup, as proof he can perform at the home of National Hunt racing.
His disappointing run in the King George at Christmas was explained away by stomach ulcers being found.
“All has been good with him of late,” said Twiston-Davies. “The ulcers haven’t held him up at all, you give them the treatment and it all helps, so we should be all right.
“I’ve heard him being described as a flat-track bully and he can only win at places like Wetherby and Haydock, but that’s not true.
“Look at his Cheltenham form, he nearly won a JLT and he ran well in the Gold Cup last year.
“I’m certainly not worried about going back there.”
The Last Samuri was runner-up in the 2016 Grand National and has Aintree as his aim once more, but Kim Bailey is a bit tired of seeing his charge having to run in handicaps with top weight.
“What do you do with him? He deserves to run in a Grade One as the poor horse always has top weights in handicaps. He’ll love the ground at Cheltenham,” said Bailey.
Brian Ellison has missed the Sky Bet Chase closer to home to run Definitly Red after winning at Aintree last time out.
“We need to find out if he’s a Gold Cup horse. The last few times he’s been there he hasn’t run well, but if he runs well we can go for the Gold Cup and if he doesn’t we’ll wait for Aintree,” said Ellison.
“I just hope the ground isn’t tacky. Aintree was heavy, which was fine, but at Wetherby (Charlie Hall) it was holding and he doesn’t like that.”
Tom George is to change tactics with Singlefarmpayment on his return to his favourite track.
“Singlefarm loves Cheltenham. He had a nasty fall at Newbury and at Ascot the track didn’t suit him. It would be nice to get him back into a smallish field,” said George.
“The idea is to be more positive, not hold him up, and use his jumping because riding him out the back is not working at the moment.
“He’s a very similar horse to Double Shuffle (King George runner-up) and changing tactics on him worked. They are both by Milan and in the right environment will raise their game. I think he’ll rise to the occasion as he likes the track so much.”
Fergal O’Brien’s Perfect Candidate is another who loves the course. His trainer said: “I was very disappointed with his run last time at Sandown. He never really seemed to be travelling that day and didn’t jump as well as we know he can.
“He just didn’t seem to act on the track at Sandown on that day for some reason, but we’ll draw a line through that.”
Harry Fry’s American was a big disappointment in the Ladbrokes Trophy, and his trainer is more hopeful than confident.
Fry told his Betway blog: “If we were certain he was the horse of last season we’d think he’d have a great chance, but we’re more going their hoping, rather than knowing.
“He’s doing everything fine and is well in himself, but we’ve said how fragile he is before and it may just be catching up with him.
“His form from last year entitles him to be competitive but we’re definitely on a recovery mission. His future will hinge on the outcome of tomorrow’s race I think.”
The Nick Williams-trained Tea For Two was last seen running a huge race to be third in the King George to Might Bite.
Assistant trainer and owner Jane Williams said: “The last time Tea For Two ran at Cheltenham (in the Gold Cup) he fell at the second.
“We have got to get over this issue of Cheltenham because if he does not run well there tomorrow, then the Gold Cup is not really an option.
“But there is no pressure and hopefully he has a clear run round and then we can see where he ends up.”
Colin Tizzard’s Theatre Guide complete the eight-runner field.
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