The idea of offering a bonus for any horse that can win the three most prestigious staying chases on Jockey Club racecourses is not new, although the initial idea, promoted by Betfair was discontinued a few years after Kauto Star earned £1m for connections in the 2006/07 season.
The bonus was established in 2005, and originally served as the first part of a bonus scheme called the Betfair Million, which was ostensibly to promote the then new Betfair Chase, which was a replacement for both the Tommy Whittle Chase and the Edward Hanmer Chase - although the former race still exists in a different format, on a different date.
The initial version of the Betfair Million was awarded if the winner of the Betfair Chase went on to win both the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Lexus Chase was included as an alternative second leg for the next two years, and Kauto Star won the prize by taking the original route in 2006–07.
The format was changed in 2008–09, when the bonus became available to any first-three finisher achieving first or second at the Cheltenham Festival and then winning the Grand National. The Betfair Million was dropped the following year.
The £1,000,000 bonus returned as the 'Chase Triple Crown' in 2015 when Jockey Club Racecourses offered it to any horse winning the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup. Cue Card won the first two legs of the 2015–16 bonus, but fell when in contention at Cheltenham.
Well, yes, but it certainly won’t be easy, and the list of possibles could be quickly whittled down (sorry, Tommy) if the going comes up unseasonably quick at Haydock on Saturday, where there are currently nine entries, and therefore only nine horses eligible for the bonus.
Of those, only two are priced at shorter than 20/1 for the second leg of the series, namely the King George at Kempton, and if you fancy Politologue, Thistlecrack, Bristol de Mai, Thistlecrack, Clan Des Obeaux or any of the Gigginstown trio to win all three legs, you would be better off simply backing them to win the King George at the respective prices.
It’s possible that one of them will win at Kempton, but it’s a big stretch to think that any of them would improve enough to put up such a dominant performance that they would go to the top of the betting for the Gold Cup, especially with all of the runners essentially exposed at this point.
To illustrate the point, imagine you believed that Bristol de Mai was worth backing for the treble – he’s as short as 80/1 with Coral for the Jockey Club Triple Crown (but as big as 150/1), but is just 25/1 for the King George.
Is it possible that he could win the Kempton race so impressively that he would leapfrog the two dozen or so horses ahead of him in the Gold Cup market? The answer to that isn’t no, but it’s close to it.
The chances are that if Bristol de Mai did manage to win at Kempton, he’d still be between 10/1 and 20/1 for the big race in March, and while it’s hard to put an exact figure on such a scenario, it’s fairly clear that backing the horse for the two races individually, then reinvesting the winnings would provide a greater return (or a similar loss) than by backing him to win the Chase Triple Crown.
There’s an easier way of showing the folly of backing him for the treble, and that’s to check his price for the Gold Cup on the betting exchanges. What’s easier? Winning just the Gold Cup, or winning the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Gold Cup? Stupid question, obviously, but the exchange price for him to win in March is 200 (for small money), while you can only get 150/1 with William Hill for him to win all three. There’s the issue in a nutshell, and the same argument can be made for the other rags.
So, if you’re considering a bet in the Chase Triple Crown market, we are quickly reduced to three options: the market leaders, and the quote of 'any horse' to achieve the feat, which includes either of those options as well as the more fanciful eventualities.
While there may be some money around for Might Bite, it’s extremely hard to understand the appeal of backing him at 12/1 (Ladbrokes) to win three Grade 1 races, when he’s 6/1 to win just one of them.
It needs to be remembered that Might Bite could easily miss out on either the Betfair and/or the King George. Anyone taking the 12/1 on offer is backing the horse not only to beat all-comers at Cheltenham in March, but to dance the correct dances on the way there, and avoid any setback which might prevent that eventuality.
There’s simply no margin for error, and even Might Bite’s biggest fans would be better backing the 'any horse' option at remarkably similar prices. At least the latter bet guarantees you’ll still have a live bet after leg one, and you only need to calculate the chance of any other winner to be 66/1 or shorter to want to be with 'Any' at 10/1 rather than Might Bite at 12/1.
On the other hand, it’s perfectly easy to argue that Native River, a year younger than Might Bite, and the winner when the pair met in the Gold Cup last March, is at least as likely as to win when the pair meet again.
Despite his campaign being built around the three races which make up the Jockey Club Triple Crown, he is 50/1 with Ladbrokes for the honours. The usual provisos apply here, and there are many ways in which the hat-trick can come unstuck, but unlike any other horse quoted, it’s very possible to imagine him winning on Saturday and usurping Might Bite’s place in the market for the next two legs.
There is a notion that he must have soft ground, but he was an excellent third in the Gold Cup as a seven-year-old on ground which was pretty lively, and the odds available do actually underestimate his class, as well as his programme.
He’s only half a point bigger for the Gold Cup than Might Bite, but four times his price for a treble which is definitely achievable, if littered, literally, with obstacles. If you must get involved in the Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown betting, there can be only one choice.
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