The National Hunt season is cranking into gear ahead of a packed festive calendar, and this Betfair Chase renewal offers our first look of the campaign at some of jump racing’s big guns and how they fare against one another.
Most have already made their seasonal debut of course, but those outings can be taken with a pinch of salt: they are largely designed to blow the cobwebs away ahead of bigger things to come.
The Betfair Chase, live from Haydock Park at 3pm on Saturday November 19, is the first race in the ‘Triple Crown’, which also features Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. For the second year running, if a horse can win all three of those renewals he or she will trouser his yard a cool £1 million bonus; certainly food for thought, and a fact that makes tomorrow’s thin seven-horse field all the more surprising.
It was Betfair Chase champion, Cue Card, that nearly did the business last year. The 10-year-old bagged this renewal and the King George before falling three from home when well placed in the Gold Cup. Can he go one better this year for Colin Tizzard and his team?
Join the Cue
The gelding’s triumph 12 months ago – after a sluggish start he rallied to defeat Silviniaco Conti by seven lengths – laid down a marker for what was to come from this magnificent beast, and a near clean sweep of the ‘big ones’ identified him as the horse to beat in 2016 and beyond.
He hit the deck for only the second time in his career in that Gold Cup – costing his team, and punters, rather a lot of money – but generally he is one of the most reliable jumpers around. With the likes of Don Cossack and Douvan absent, he really is a power play here.
That’s because there are ‘unknowns’ with his main competition. How will Coneygree fare after a year on the sidelines with injury? You fancy he is being aimed squarely at the King George and Gold Cup, with this renewal slightly too early in his rehabilitation. It will be fascinating to see how he fares against such illustrious company here.
And how about Silviniaco Conti of course, the two-time champion of this race and back-to-back winner of the King George. Are his best days behind him? Possibly, but a proven winner at the elite level is always a danger.
Irish Cavalier is capable too, but has never troubled the favourites in the ‘majors’ and as such we’re happy to pin our hopes on Cue Card, at a generally available 7/4, to get the job done.
Miracle at Midnight
This is a notoriously difficult betting event and certainly not helped by the presence of three or four genuine winners in a field of seven. One of those contenders is the very interesting Seeyouatmidnight.
He is likely to make the running alongside Coneygree, and having finished third in the Scottish National we have no qualms about his staying power.
Perhaps most pertinently, Seeyouatmidnight comes here from the Sandy Thomson yard, who have been in fine form this season with eight winners at a success rate of 25%. Factor in that Brian Hughes will take the ride, he of the five-timer at Musselburgh on Monday, and we have a converging set of trends to whet the appetite of any erstwhile punter.
He looks ready to make the step up to Grade One status, and at 7/1 an each way flutter could yield handy results for those playing a Haydock Park multiple wager on Saturday.