2018 Betfair Chase at Haydock Odds and Betting Preview
A small but highly select field will take to Haydock racecourse on Saturday afternoon – due off at 15:00 GMT – for the Betfair Chase, which will offer pointers towards the blue rib and Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.
2018’s first and second – Native River and Might Bite are likely to lock horns once again as both look to prove their supremacy in the new campaign. It would be churlish to rule out Bristol De Mai, who routed the field in this race last year.
Promising chaser, Clan Des Obeaux for leading trainer, Paul Nicholls is another who could show the necessary improvement to give the leading protagonists something to think about. Veteran star, Thistlecrack is also a likely participant, in what promises to be the most informative Grade 1 staying chase race of the season so far.
History and Race Information
The Betfair Chase is familiarly known by its sponsored name, but its registered title is the Lancashire Chase. It is now the first Grade 1 event of the National Hunt season in Britain. Prior to 2017 it was run over a distance of about 3 miles. The distance was increased by around 300 yards to allow a longer run from the start to the first bend.
Betfair took over the sponsorship of the race back in 2005, and decided to offer a £1m bonus for any horse to win this race, and claim the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, culminating with victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Kauto Star claimed the huge prize back in 2007, and the bonus was dropped by the bookmaker, two years later.
In 2015, the Jockey Club Racecourses re-offered the bonus to any horse winning the treble. Cue Card won the first two legs of the 2015–16 bonus but fell when in contention at Cheltenham. Since 2016 the Kauto Star Trophy has been awarded to the owner of a horse completing the Chase Triple Crown following his so far, unequalled success.
In this article, we will look at some of the leading contenders of his high-profile race, to try and point our readers in the right direction for a winning selection.
Might to Bite back at Haydock?
Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite is arguably the finest staying chaser in training today, but that didn’t mean for much as the nine-year-old had to give best against Native River at last seasons’ Cheltenham Gold Cup. Might Bite returned to the track at Aintree, three weeks after his Gold Cup reversal by slamming Bristol De Mai by seven lengths, with Clan Des Obeaux, almost four lengths further behind.
The bookmakers believe that Might Bite is primed to reverse the form with Native River this weekend, and is the solid even money favourite with several firms including William Hill. The basis of the expected turn around, is due to the flat track at Haydock and the expected ground conditions not being overly testing.
Might Bite has no issues in staying the distance, but his main trait is that the son of Scorpion has a high-cruising galloping style. The conditions are likely to be in his favour this weekend, he could be the obvious play.
River to Flow Once More?
The reigning Gold Cup champion is officially rated three pounds higher than Might Bite, is one year more youthful and will have the urgings of champion jockey, Richard Johnson. So why is Native River the readily available 3/1 second favourite with Coral and Sporting Bet you may ask?
As a long-standing fan of National Hunt racing, I am a little perplexed myself at the disparity in prices between the two main protagonists of this race. Native River, as an individual is a chaser of the very highest quality. His only defeat in his last six outings was a three-length defeat in behind Sizing John and Minella Rocco in the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
During the five other victories, Native River has won three times at Newbury – two Grade 2 Denman Chases and the 2017 Hennessy Gold Cup. Not to mention a Welsh National at Chepstow, along with his Cheltenham blue riband success.
If Native River is to prevail on Saturday, I would hope that Johnson will make the running on the eight-year-old, in a similar vein to his Cheltenham win. 3/1 is the value in this race, make no mistake, even if the Colin Tizzard stable star does not prevail.
This race has been billed in recent days as a match between Might Bite and Native River, but last season’s winner of the Betfair Chase, Bristol De Mai should not be written off completely, even if the Nigel Twiston-Davies’ star does not get his preferred heavy ground conditions.
Bristol De Mai is a best priced 6/1 with Black Type at the time of writing, and while he does look to have a stiff task against the aforementioned pair, he has an obvious liking for the track. With three wins from three, and a combined winning distance from those victories of 111 lengths, the popular grey horse may prove to be a live danger.
It is fair to say that the seven-year-old shows his best form on very heavy ground conditions, but has won on a soft surface, so cannot be completely ruled out. On previous form, he has plenty to find with Might Bite and Native River, but it is far from improbable that he bridges the gap.
The real unknown quantity of the race is the Paul Nicholls-trained, Clan Des Obeaux, who will be ridden by Harry Cobden. The improving six-year-old has over a stone to find with Native River on official ratings, but the noises coming out of the Nicholls training base at Ditcheat suggest that a good run is to be expected on Saturday afternoon.
Clan Des Obeaux is a stand-out price of 12/1 with William Hill, which is a little generous in my view. Several layers have the Nicholls charge at single-figure odds which is more realistic. After pulling out of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, which was an easier target to this race, Clan Des Obeaux could be the next big star from the Nicholls yard with victory here.
Others to Consider
Thistlecrack looked to be the chasing star of the future after claiming victory in the 2016 King George chase, but has since suffered injury problems and defeats in his last three starts. Colin Tizzard suggests the former Stayers Hurdle winner is working well at home, but it seems unlikely that Thistlecrack will return to the highest echelons of the chasing sphere again. The 10-year-old is a best-priced 10/1 with Betfred, to prove me wrong.
Politologue is in the current ante-post betting, but it is highly likely, the Nicholls’ charge will be re-routed for a trip to Ascot on Saturday, which leaves the three Irish horses, of Shattered Love, Outlander and Don Poli.
All three are currently priced at 14/1, 33/1 and 40/1 respectively, and it is doubtful if any will make the trip over the Irish Sea. It would be wise to wait until after the final declarations are announced on Thursday to see if any of the trio are intended runners, but all look to have very minimal chances in truth.
An absolutely fascinating race even considering the low numbers. Bristol De Mai is the obvious each-way play providing more than eight runners line-up on Saturday afternoon, but I suspect the race will cut up further, which tempers my enthusiasm.
In that case, we will go bold and select one horse for this race, and Native River is the call to prevail over Might Bite once again. The slight negative is that Haydock is a flat track in comparison to Cheltenham, which gives more hope for Might Bite, but Native River has done nothing wrong, and the value is definitely there at 3/1 and rates as a strong selection to prevail.