A select field of four go to post in the feature race at Haydock on Saturday, the 3m 1f Grade 1 Betfair Chase (15:00).
Lostintransaltion is strongly fancied to land the spoils and further enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims.
This Colin Tizzard trained seven-year-old mixed it at the very highest level last season, winning two of his six starts and also posting some cracking efforts in defeat.
After digging deep to beat Defi Du Seuil in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, the son of Flemensfirth found that rival only three-quarters of a length too good in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles at Sandown.
He then again had to play second fiddle to that rival at the Cheltenham Festival when beaten just over two lengths in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Lostintranslation then gained a deserved success at Grade 1 level when running out an impressive winner the 3m 1f Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
He jumped well throughout and only had to be pushed out on the run-in to easily beat RSA winner Topofthegame by six lengths.
More improvement on the cards
That stunning success marked him out as a potential contender for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, and that view was confirmed when Lostintranslation put in a dazzling display to land the Listed 2m 4f Colin Parker Memorial at Carlisle on seasonal reappearance.
Sent straight to the front by regular pilot Robbie Power, he jumped impeccably throughout and had his three rivals under pressure a long way from home.
Count Meribel, unbeaten in three previous visits to Carlisle, did his best to stay with him in the home straight, but Lostintranslation never had to be asked a serious question and won by 2 1/4 lengths despite being eased close to the finish.
The pair pulled nine lengths clear of the 156-rated Kildisart and it was an awesome performance which oozed class.
This demands much more, but Lostintranslation will relish the step back up in trip and appeals as the type to go on progressing.
Underfoot conditions are also ideal, so – at 13/8 with Coral – Lostintranslation looks to have lots going for him and the one to be on.
Bristol De Mai favourite to land Betfair Chase hat-trick
The betting is headed by course specialist Bristol De Mai at 5/4 with Betfred, who is bidding to win this prestigious prize for the third consecutive year.
This Nigel Twiston-Davies trained eight-year-old grey, who races in the green colours of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, is unbeaten in four starts at the Merseyside venue.
He won the Betfair Chase by an astonishing 57 lengths in 2017 and was also impressive 12 months ago when registering a decisive four-length success over 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River.
Bristol De Mai then fell at the ninth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, before finishing a fine 5 1/4 lengths third in the Gold Cup behind Al Boum Photo and Anibale Fly.
His final start of the 2018-19 saw him take fourth in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl at Aintree’s Grand National Festival. Those efforts have earned Bristol De Mai an official rating of 170.
That is the highest in the Betfair Chase line-up this year. It puts him 1lb clear of Frodon and 7lb ahead of Lostintranslation.
It makes Bristol De Mai the one to beat at his favourite stomping ground. Handler Twiston-Davies said at a Haydock media day earlier in the week that he was “as well as he has always been” and “should win it”.
It’s easy to see why he takes that view as Bristol De Mai’s run in the Gold Cup suggests he is the third best staying chaser in England and Ireland.
However, he does face a young and rapidly improving rival in Lostintranslation who looks more than capable of serving it to him.
Therefore, for all that his claims are glaringly obvious, Bristol De Mai looks worth taking on at the odds on offer.
Frodon entitled to improve for Aintree run
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in the history of the Betfair Chase, with six victories courtesy of the great Kauto Star (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011) and Silvianaco Conti (2012 and 2014).
His sole representative in this year’s renewal is Frodon, a seven-year-old who won four of his five starts under Bryony Frost last season.
He put in a bold front-running display to defy top-weight in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, then showed real guts at the same venue when holding on by three-quarters of a length from Elegant Escape in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase.
Connections were tempted to have a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup after those taking successes, but instead opted to for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase over a shorter trip instead.
It proved to be the right decision as Frodon produced a roof raising performance to beat Aso by just over a length.
He led and jumped well at the head of affairs from flag fall and, after getting headed two out, fought back tenaciously to get up close home.
Frodon had top class performers Road To Respect, Monalee and Un De Sceaux in-behind, and there was simply nothing not to like about the way in which he got the job done.
The son of Nickname comes into this on the back of one run, when a slightly below par 13 three-quarters of a length third of five to Forest Bihan in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase at Aintree.
As jumping is his strong suit, Frodon’s cause that day wasn’t helped by many obstacles in the home straight being omitted due to low sun.
His Ryanair success commands him the utmost respect in this and Frodon can be backed at 13/2 with Paddy Power.
Ballyoptic completes Betfair Chase quartet
Also set to represent Twiston-Davies in this Betfair Chase renewal is Ballyoptic, a 16/1 shot with Boylesports, who has won both his starts this season.
After winning unchallenged by nine lengths in the Native River Handicap Chase at Chepstow, this nine-year-old dug deep to follow-up and land the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby earlier in the month.
Ballyoptic raced with the leaders, but got slightly outpaced rounding the home turn.
However, the then responded generously to the urgings of jockey Sam Twiston-Davies and stayed on dourly to beat Elegant Escape by 3 3/4 lengths.
He had Aso, runner-up to Frodon in the Ryanair, a further six lengths behind in third – so the form is far from shabby.
This demands more, but – judged on that success – Ballyoptic has earned his crack at this level.
Soft ground will certainly play to the strengths of this out-and-out stayer, who has a likely long-term target of the 2020 Aintree Grand National.
It will be a big shock, however, if Ballyoptic is able to lower the colours of three classy rivals with bags more pace than him and his Betfair Chase odds reflect that.