The Grade 1 Betfair Chase provides an intriguing rematch of top class staying chasers at Haydock (3pm, Saturday). The first three home last year are the leading trio in the bookies’ Betfair Chase betting – even though two of them have disappointed recently.
It was Colin Tizzard’s (pictured) stable star Cue Card (3/1) who emerged victorious here in 2013, leaving David Pipe’s Dynaste four and a half lengths in his wake with Silviniaco Conti a further length behind him in third. Cue Card emphatically silenced his many doubters over distances beyond two and a half miles – and on soft ground. His dairy farmer trainer is unlikely to get so emotional if he manages to score again. His son Joe, Cue Card’s regular jockey, retired from the saddle last March.
Daryl Jacob took the ride on his debut in the Haldon Gold Cup over two miles and a furlong at Exeter early this month. He started as the 13/8 favourite but was beaten 15 lengths into fourth by the Tom George-trained God’s Own. He was giving the winner more than a stone and plenty of weight to the rest of his rivals.
Tizzard was undaunted by his defeat, admitting that most of his horses have needed their first run. Cue Card had good reason to. He had been absent for almost 11 months. A minor stress fracture of his pelvis was discovered in March, ending his season. His previous run was in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. He ran in his usual exuberant style and looked to have the field beaten until the last fence. As he seemed to empty, Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti stayed on strongly to win by three and a half lengths.
Tizzard’s strike rate this season is pretty dire but, while the big guns were clocking up the winners at Cheltenham last weekend, he had a double at Fontwell on Sunday (both with horses having their second run) and followed up with a winner on Monday.
Cue Card is reported to have come out of the Haldon well, benefiting physically and mentally for the run. A poor performance in the same race last year didn’t stop him going on to win here, but last year he had the excuse of slipping badly going into a fence. Tizzard thinks that Haydock suits him and reckons he is the one they have to beat. He is an eternal optimist but might be right.
Whilst Tizzard is bidding for his second Betfair Chase win, Paul Nicholls has a phenomenal record here with five victories. His hopes rest with Silviniaco Conti (10/3) the victor in 2012.
This eight-year-old son of Dom Alco was also disappointing on his seasonal debut. He started as the evens favourite in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago and looked the likely winner but faded tamely when it mattered, finishing eight lengths behind Philip Hobbs’ Menorah in fifth. That was over three miles one furlong. The three other horses in front of him all line up here.
Nicholls was fairly positive about his chances prior to the race. He had discovered that Silviniaco Conti was suffering from severe stomach ulcers last season, possibly accounting for a couple of below par efforts. Having treated them, he was expecting a decent performance. He admitted afterwards that he looked to need the run.
He got beaten first time out last year (in this race by Cue Card) and back in 2011 by Cue Card in a novice chase over a shorter distance. His four runs last season were all in Grade 1 chases over three miles or more. Having beaten Cue Card in the King George he was fourth by two lengths to Jim Culloty’s Lord Windermere in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He went on to win the Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree in April, beating Dynaste by a length and a half, despite hanging left after two out and wandering on the approach to the last fence.
On his current rating of 174, the handicapper has him 2lb higher than Cue Card. If, like many of his trainer’s horses he is now at peak fitness, Nicholls could well make it six wins.
The handicapper dropped Dynaste’s (10/3) rating to 167 after the Betfred Bowl, suggesting he has something to find here. We haven’t seen him since. In his penultimate run last season he scored in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase over two miles five furlongs at the Cheltenham Festival, beating Shark Hanlon’s Hidden Cyclone by two lengths. It was his only win from four outings last season.
David Pipe has acknowledged that he will have to be at his very best here to score. I agree with him and find him unattractive at his current price. Whilst we can trust Pipe to have him fully fit, past form suggests that he will struggle to beat Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti if they are on song on the day.
In contrast the nine-year-old Menorah (9/1) initially seems generously priced for a horse that beat two of his more fancied rivals in the Charlie Hall. He is rated 1lb higher than Dynaste at 168. But Hobbs’ horses have been flying first time out this season and he is unlikely to improve for the run. The other question mark is the ground. That win was on good going and Hobbs mentioned that he wouldn’t run here if it was too soft. With testing ground a certainty the form looks likely to be reversed here.
Jonjo O’Neill’s Taquin Du Seuil (11/2) finished four lengths behind Menorah at Wetherby in second. He seemed to be slightly outpaced when the tempo increased three out but stayed on well. He looked to need the run on his seasonal debut when beaten 24 lengths by Nicholls’ Wonderful Charm at Newton Abbot in early October. This will be his third run of the season so he should not want for fitness.
His form suggests he functions well in mud. He won here on heavy going in January. As a seven-year-old he may well be progressive and could defy his mark of 159.
The only other seven year old to line up is Kim Bailey’s Harry Topper (14/1). He seems to be best when fresh and thrives in very testing conditions. We last saw him pulling up in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in March but he previously won the Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury on heavy ground in February. He has won on his seasonal debut twice but meets higher class company here. He could well run into a place.
Betfair Chase Betting Tips Conclusion
This looks likely to be a close run race and it will be the horse that is on peak form on the day that will prevail. Nicholls has recently hit a rich vein of form and can usually be trusted to have his horses right when it matters. Our Betfair Chase betting tips pick has to be SILVINIACO CONTI, who is 3/1 generally but currently best priced at 10/3 with Paddy Power.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.