Silviniaco Conti has the form and ability to win the Betfair Chase and can be backed at 11/4 to land the race for the second successive year. An outstanding field is expected for the race which could be described as a mini Gold Cup. Bobs Worth, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, plus Cue Card and Long Run could also run.
It will be the first run of the season for Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti, while Cue Card and Long Run are looking to get their seasons back on track after poor runs in their seasonal bows. Cue Card is trying three miles for only the second time after being beaten over a shorter trip at Exeter while Long Run was tailed off in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
The 10 declarations also include Tidal Bay and Dynaste plus Irish entries Roi Du Mee, winner of the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal last time, and Prince De Beauchene, third in that race. The field is completed by The Giant Bolster, placed in a Gold Cup, and Cloudy Too, a horse that looks out of his depth at this level.
The Betfair Chase is the first Grade 1 chase of the season and is one of the three most important steeplechases in the calendar, alongside the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The race is run over three miles one furlong at Haydock Park this Saturday.
The chase course at Haydock has been realigned which means the race will be run over a more demanding track and tougher fences and that should suit the favourite, Bobs Worth. That horse is clearly the best chaser in the country and has good form when running first time out. However, the opposition could not be stronger and the race will be an informative trial for next year’s Gold Cup.
The race was first run in 2005 and was initially part of a bonus scheme with the other two main chases run during the season. However the bonus scheme no longer exists but the race still stands alone as a key trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Kauto Star has won the Betfair Chase four times, on each occasion ridden by Ruby Walsh. Imperial Commander is the other horse to have won the race and the Gold Cup. Silviniaco Conti won the Betfair Chase in 2012 and its trainer, Paul Nichols, has now won the race five times.
Bobs Worth is a horse that could maintain championship status over fences in the Blue Riband race of the jumps season. The horse looked in trouble two out in last season’s Gold Cup but got into the race in the straight before powering up the hill to win the race by 7 lengths. Bobs Worth ran just two times last season, in the Gold Cup and Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury. The novices from last season do not look an outstanding bunch so Bobs Worth will have to beat the same horses to win another Cheltenham Gold Cup in March and several of his chief rivals in the Betfair Chase.
Silviniaco Conti was going as well as anything when falling three out in last season’s Gold Cup. We will never know how the race would have panned out for the horse but it looked odds on that he was about to be placed at worst. In winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and this race at Haydock the horse came right into the mix for the Gold Cup. The Betfair Chase will be informative in the context of this horse’s competiveness at the highest level but on Gold Cup form before falling Silviniaco Conti looks a leading contender for the major staying chases this season.
Cue Card won the Ryanair Chase at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and is the market leader for next year’s renewal in March. The horse was beaten by over four lengths by Sprinter Sacre at Aintree but that was possibly its best run. The distance of the Betfair Chase may not suit the horse that was beaten at Exeter recently though still ran a good race giving weight to the horses that finished ahead of it at the line.
Dynaste proved to be one of the best novice chasers last season with impressive wins in Grade 1 company at Kempton over Christmas and Aintree in April. The horse was not a confirmed runner in the Paddy Power as the Betfair Chase at Haydock is a viable alternative. Dynaste’s effort will reflect the relative strength of last season’s novices and the more experienced chasers.
Tidal Bay is proven at the highest level having won a Grade 1 race at the Cheltenham Festival and at the same level in Ireland as recently as December 2012. The trainer has not decided whether to run the horse over hurdles or fences this season and could combine both disciplines. The horse has the class and jumping ability to win the Grand National, pending a weight that allows him to be competitive and a good starting point is the Betfair Chase.
Long Run is still single figure odds to repeat the performance of an epic battle with Captain Chris in last year’s King George. His backers will be concerned with the recent race at Wetherby in which he finished out of the first three for the first time in his career, but subsequently was found to have scoped badly. A serious error out in the country really stopped the horse, more than what was apparent from the stands, so there are genuine reasons for such a bad run and the Betfair Chase will be more informative.