Bristol De Mai defends Betfair Chase crown at Haydock
Bristol De Mai continued his love affair with Haydock when springing a surprise in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
Successful by 57 lengths in this race 12 months, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey upstaged the first two in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup, Native River and Might Bite, as he ran his rivals into the ground.
The 13-2 shot jumped superbly for Daryl Jacob and he kept pulling out more to hold the challenge of Native River in game fashion. Thistlecrack was third with Clan Des Obeaux fourth.
It was Bristol De Mai's fourth win at the Merseyside track from four runs there.
The disappointment of the race was the evens favourite Might Bite, who weakened into last place after holding every chance.
Jacob said: "He's unbelievable. Everybody was building this up as a two-horse race, but our camp had different ideas.
"We've believed in this horse a long time. This horse has won a Grade One every year he's been over here. We've nurtured him.
"That was a big moment. He's a great horse. It obviously was a disadvantage it not being soft ground, but at this track, there's something about it he just loves and he feels a lot better.
"They were big fences and took some jumping. I got him into a lovely rhythm. He jumped super and you needed to jump today to win and that's exactly what this lad did."
Twiston-Davies said: "He's one of the real top horses in the country and he grinds them down and wins by jumping well and galloping.
"He wins everywhere when he's right. He's difficult to keep right.
"First and second time out last season he was superb, then he started getting his aches and pains and taking a few lame steps. Hopefully second time out this year will be at Kempton and we'll give them a hard time there.
"We don't mind being the under dog. We were discussing on the way up here how it reminded us of Imperial Commander taking on Kauto Star and Denman in the Gold Cup. We were totally the under dog and then you go and stuff them like that!
"I don't think it's just because it's Haydock - he's just brilliant first time out.
"We're lucky as we have the best gallops in the world and we bring them here fit. Maybe the others weren't quite fit, I'm not sure.
"What we've got to do is bring this horse fit and keep him right.
"Today is brilliant. When you know you can't win, it's great when you do!"