Now on the downgrade, Bristol De Mai looks value to land the 3m 1f Grade 2 Cotswold Chase on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham this Saturday (14:25).
Trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies, this popular nine-year-old grey won the 2017 Betfair Chase at Haydock by an astonishing 57 lengths.
He was also impressive 12 months later in the same contest on Merseyside when registering a decisive four-length success over 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River.
Bristol De Mai, who is owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, then fell at the ninth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
He later finished a fine 5 1/4 lengths third in last year’s Gold Cup behind Al Boum Photo and Anibale Fly.
Bristol De Mai’s final start of the 2018-19 saw him take fourth in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
The son of Saddler Maker has had just one run this season and lost little in defeat when beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Lostintranslation in his bid to win the Betfair Chase for a third time.
Those efforts have earned Bristol De Mai an official rating of 170 and that is the highest in this six-runner Cotswold Chase line-up.
It puts him 7lb ahead of the favourite Santini, to whom he only has to concede 2lb, and 6lb clear of the second best in Top Ville Ben.
That one is arguably grossly flattered by his rating having only won the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase last time out.
That makes Bristol De Mai, whose form sets a clear standard, the one to beat. This is also the easiest task he has faced for some time, so he’s fancied at 9/4 with SportNation to win.
Santini’s Cotswold Chase odds unappealing
The Cotswold Chase betting is headed by the highly-regarded Santini, who has long been talked of as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender.
He needs to win this recognised trial for the blue riband steeplechase in order to live up to that billing.
After winning a British point-to-point at Didmarton, this strapping eight-year-old joined the Seven Barrows team of Nickey Henderson and developed into a very useful hurdler.
After scoring by 4 1/2 lengths at the Winter Carnival at Newbury, he followed-up with Grade 2 glory in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle on this card in 2018.
Santini went on to run a really solid race at the Cheltenham Festival when a keeping on third to Kilbricken Storm in the Albert Bartlett, before rounding off the campaign with victory in the Grade 1 in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
He then had his attentions switched to chasing at the start of last term. Santini impressed when making a winning debut over the larger obstacles in the Grade 2 John Francome at Newbury
This Milan gelding was then far from disgraced when third in the Grade 1 Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day when unsuited by the sharp track.
He ran a cracker when a half- length second to Topofthegame in a strong renewal of the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
That run suggested there was plenty more to come from Santini, but he put in an underwhelming effort on return to action when scrambling home by a head from Now McGinty – who was rated 19lb inferior – in a Listed contest at Sandown in November.
This demands much more. On his Sandown run, Santini is not entitled to be favourite for this, so odds of 15/8 with William Hill are opposed on this occasion.
De Rasher Counter and Slate House respected
The Emma Lavelle trained De Rasher Counter is a progressive sort who comes into the race on the back of a career-best effort, so commands plenty of respect.
This eight-year-old has won three of his seven starts over fences and was impressive when landing a typically fierce renewal of the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November.
After tracking the leaders and jumping well throughout, De Rasher Counter took up the running four from home and stayed on strongly when pressed after the last to beat The Conditional by 1 1/2 lengths.
It was a cracking effort against more experienced and battle-hardened handicappers which earned De De Rasher Counter a 9lb rise in the weights.
That puts him just 5lb behind Santini, so the son of Yeats looks well worth a crack at this level.
Given his upwardly mobile profile, it would be no surprise to see De Rasher Counter outrun his odds of 9/1 with BetVictor and give the main market principals plenty to think about.
Another very interesting runner in the Colin Tizzard trained Slate House, a 13/2 shot with Bethard, who is a three-time winner at the venue.
This eight-year-old showed a smart turn of foot last time out when beating Black Op by just over a length in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. It looks significant that he is now pitched into open company rather than sticking to novice contests.
That also suggests that connections believe that he is the real deal and Slate House receives weight from all five rivals, so it would be folly to underestimate his chances.