Bristol De Mai targeting Kauto Star record

Features | 16th November 2021

Bristol De Mai will be going for a fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock. A record set by the mighty Kauto Star. Can Bristol match Kauto...

The Betfair Chase, the first Grade 1 race of the jumps season, has quickly become the first port of call for the very best staying chasers.

Since the Haydock prize, officially registered as the Lancashire Chase, was introduced in the 2005, it has been won by some of the greats of the winter game.

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander was successful in 2010 and King George winner Cue Card etched his name on the roll of honour no less than three times.

Kauto Star, one of the truly great chasers, went one better by winning four Betfair Chases. That’s the record Bristol De Mai will attempt to match this season.

The dashing grey landed the trophy in 2017, 2018 and 2020 and now heads to his beloved Haydock on a mission. Here’s how they dazzled racing fans at Haydock.

Bristol De Mai and Kauto Star

Ship shape and Bristol fashion

Bristol De Mai’s love affair with Haydock started nearly six years ago when the steely grey took on four rivals in the Grade 2 Altcar Novices’ Chase.

The wide‐margin victory sparked a romance that has seen the Nigel Twiston‐Davies‐trained chaser become one of the classiest stayers currently racing.

His five Haydock wins include three victories in the Betfair Chase. The first came on heavy ground when he thrashed Cue Card – another three‐times Betfair Chase winner – by an incredible 57 lengths in 2017.

Bristol De Mai and Daryl Jacob winning The Betfair Chase 2017
Bristol De Mai and Daryl Jacob winning The Betfair Chase 2017

His bold front‐running display coupled with some slick jumping immediately drew comparisons to the greatest grey of all, Desert Orchid. A superb field was assembled for his defence of Haydock’s biggest chase.

Native River, Might Bite, Thistlecrack and Clan Des Obeaux all took on Bristol De Mai but none of them could live with him in the closing stages despite the good ground not particularly playing to his strengths.

A third Betfair Chase victory looked on the cards in 2019 but he couldn’t hold off Lostintranslation’s finishing burst as he suffered, to date, his only Haydock defeat.

His hat‐trick was merely delayed by 12 months. On his favoured testing ground, he sliced through the mud last year to see off dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux with Lostintranslation a distant third.

Now he stands on the brink of equalling the record four Betfair Chase wins of one of the greatest chasers to have set hoof on to a racecourse.

The unusually dry start to November puts a potential spanner in the works but when Bristol De Mai steps off his horse box on to his favourite Haydock turf, he can never be underestimated.

The brightest Star

The word legend is banded about in sport far too often. It should be reserved for the best of the best. Kauto Star, undoubtedly, belongs to that group.

He will be best remembered for his five King George VI Chase victories and his two Cheltenham Gold Cup wins but his success in the Betfair Chase is, perhaps, just as important.

When he arrived at Haydock in November 2006, the Betfair Chase was in just its second year. Kauto Star had already marked himself down as a top‐class prospect, both in France and after joining Paul Nicholls’ powerful Somerset stables.

The unknown was the step up to three miles. He had proved his class when taking the previous season’s Tingle Creek over two miles at Sandown and he headed for Haydock on the back of a hugely‐impressive win in Aintree’s Old Roan Chase.

His supporters needed not worry. He took the step up in distance in his stride with a 17‐length thrashing of top‐class Irish chaser Beef Or Salmon.

Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh winning The Betfair Chase in 2006
Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh winning The Betfair Chase in 2006

His first King George victory followed little more than a month later before glory at the Cheltenham Festival in the Gold Cup. When Kauto Star returned to Haydock in 2007 his status as racing’s number one chaser was already confirmed.

This time he was made to work by Exotic Dancer but he pulled out enough in the closing stages to hang on by half a length.

A hat‐trick of Betfair Chase wins looked likely the following year but Sam Thomas, standing in for an injured Ruby Walsh, couldn’t cling on to Kauto Star after a mistake at the last fence when moving into the lead.

There were no such blips the following season when he showed he had grit to go with his brilliance. He nosed out subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander in the closest of photo finishes.

Nicholls chose to send to Down Royal in Northern Ireland instead of Haydock the following year and when Kauto Star lined up to attempt to win a fourth Betfair Chase in 2011 age seemed to be catching up with him.

Defeats in the King George, Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup prompted calls for retirement. That’s why his superb frontrunning display to beat Gold Cup champ Long Run by eight lengths was so memorable.

It was the most emotional of wins. A fourth Betfair Chase victory that teed up Kauto Star for a record fifth King George. A true great, a true Haydock legend.