The betting would suggest the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday is a showdown between Cue Card and Coneygree but Irish Cavalier should not be dismissed as a potential winner of this prestigious chase. The race is the first leg of the Holy Trinity of steeple chasing that also includes the King George on Boxing Day and the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.
There is a £1 million bonus up for grabs for any horse that wins the three most important chases of the season. Cue Card won the first two legs last season and then fell three out in the Gold Cup when going well. The horse’s subsequent run at Aintree suggested he would have gone very close to beating Don Cossack in the Gold Cup but we will never know. Coneygree won that race in 2015 but has been absent from the track due to injury since last November. This is a tough assignment after a year out.
Irish Cavalier beat Cue Card in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago and is a progressive improving horse. Cue Card needed the race but it was a truly run affair and Irish Cavalier was a worthy winner. The horse has excelled in handicap company but deserves a place in a Grade 1 race and has a great deal in his favour in the context of Saturday’s race. Irish Cavalier looks overpriced at 12/1.
An intriguing renewal of the Betfair Chase is also the target for Silviniaco Conti, the two times former winner. The horse has missed the boat with regards the Gold Cup but is still a viable contender at this level. Paul Nicholls now sees his horse as more a Grand National prospect but old Kauto Star had a swansong at Haydock so Silviniaco Conti could still do the business on Saturday. Seyouatmidnight could emerge as a champion so how he fares in this company will be informative.
The Betfair Chase is open to horses aged five and older and is run over three miles and there are 18 fences. The race is actually registered as the Lancashire Chase and is the first Grade 1 race of the jumps season. In terms of prestige only the King George and Gold Cup rank higher than this race. Kauto Star won it four times and Cue Card is another dual winner. Nicholls and Ruby Walsh are the leading trainer and jockey.
Irish Cavalier was ridden by Jonathan Moore at Wetherby as part of his role with the horse’s trainer Rebecca Curtis. The jockey has been extolling the virtues of his mount and readers of the Racing Post were left in no doubt about the jockey’s respect for his ride at Haydock. He was quoted this week in the Post as saying:
“He (Irish Cavalier) has been underestimated in the market for the Betfair but I don’t mind going into the race as an underdog and hopefully we can come up with the goods again. I rode him last week and he was bouncing on his toes and swishing his tail.”
I guess if a horse is swishing his tail all is good in the world so if Irish Cavalier improves again from Wetherby the current price looks huge. Moore thinks the horse is open to improvement and aged just seven could still reach the top of the chasing tree.
Cue Card needed the run at Wetherby but there was no fluke about the result. The horse improved last season on the same route from Wetherby to Haydock but aged 10 he does not have youth on his side. The baton as the leading chaser in Britain could be passed on from Cue Card this Saturday.
The most likely recipient is Coneygree who won the Gold Cup as a novice in 2015. That feat had not been achieved for 40 years but returning after a year away from the sport in a Grade 1 contest is a big ask. Coneygree is the favourite for the Betfair Chase but the ground could yet go against him and backing the horse should be delayed until nearer the day.
Seeyouatmidnight was one of the best novice chasers last season but underperformed in the RSA Chase. That race is one of the toughest of the season for young chasers and leading from the outset and winning proved to be an impossible task.
Seeyouatmidnight is unproven in this company but Irish Cavalier has contested races of this calibre and is the each way bet of the weekend.