Last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River and Thistlecrack, the winner of the 2016 King George VI Chase, will meet each other for the first tine in Saturday's Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The race sponsors Betfair make Native River a best priced 100/30 for the £200,000 contest, Gold Cup second Might Bite the even-money favourite. The duo produced an epic battle at the Cheltenham Festival, Native River prevailing by four and a half lengths in what is regarded by many as one of the best Gold Cups in modern times.
Now in its 14th year, the Betfair Chase was given a slight tweak last season in terms of the distance it was run over. For its first 12 renewals, The Grade 1 was run over 3 miles and 24 yards, but the configuration of the track for last year’s race changed and as a consequence the last fence is now jumped three times, the runners racing 3m 1f 125 yards.
The Betfair Chase forms the first leg of the £1m Jockey Club sponsored 'Chase Triple Crown', which is awarded to any horse that can win the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on December 26 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.
With the likes of Tizzard, Nicholls, Twiston-Davies and Henderson all fielding runners in the Betfair Chase, we should be in for yet another classic renewal.
Even-money may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but Might Bite (nap) looks a very solid bet among the Betfair Chase favourites, given that conditions will be right up his street, with many of his rivals having questions to face on the surface.
In the Gold Cup his stamina ebbed away after the last fence when Native River got the upper hand after a long, protracted duel. Ground conditions, and the sharper nature of the Haydock track. appear to sway things the way of the Henderson runner here as this will be a very rare dry-ground Betfair Chase.
Native River (100/30 Betfair) has no problem with quicker ground; five of his 11 wins have come on going described as good-to-soft or good. However, his grinding, front-running style means that he is often the last man (horse) standing in testing conditions when others have cried enough, but he probably won’t get the chance to dominate here.
Bristol De Mai (6/1 Black Type) needs no introduction as far as this race goes and his demolition of the opposition 12 months ago will go down in the annals of Haydock Park history.
Even though every form student knows that the ground completely fell into his lap that day, one cannot deny that his Haydock record is impeccable and the old adage 'horses for courses' certainly rings true.
However, the ground does not look like it will be on his side this year but if you believe that the pundits have got him completely wrong you can get a generous 6/1 about him with Black Type.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux (nb) has many lengths to make up on Might Bite on their Aintree encounter last season, but he does appear to be a progressive type and may give the more fancied runners something to think about.
At the age of six there is plenty of scope for improvement, and Nicholls will be very keen to re-establish himself as the go-to trainer for a big Saturday winner, after monopolising this contest for many years previously. The yard has a big void to fill after producing the likes of Silviniaco Conti, Kauto Star, Denman and Master Minded.
Clan Des Obeaux has had to go straight to Haydock for his seasonal debut, but he is one from one at the course, and each-way punters searching around for some value in the Betfair Chase should quickly hoover up some of the 11/1 available on him at Bet365.
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