The Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock looks to be the strongest renewal of this race for many years (3pm, Saturday). The top trainers are wheeling out their biggest guns in pursuit of the £200,000 prize fund.
Nicky Henderson’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth heads the market at 9/4 and has Paul Nicholls’ Gold Cup casualty, Silviniaco Conti (5/2) not far behind him. There has been much mention of Bobs Worth being unbeaten on left-handed tracks, like Haydock. This diminutive eight-year-old son of Bob Back has not been seen on this course before but it is another galloping track with stiff fences and a stamina-testing, uphill finish. Cheltenham horses generally perform well here and he has clocked up five wins at Prestbury Park.
Bobs Worth has also won on his debut for the past three seasons. Last year he opened his account by beating Nicholls’ Tidal Bay by three lengths in the Hennessy Gold Cup. If Bobs Worth maintains his position as the market leader, it is worth remembering that he has rewarded his followers every time he has started as the favourite. He appears to merit the position here.
Silviniaco Conti scored in this race last year, beating Henderson’s Long Run by two and a half lengths. He followed up by taking the Denman Chase at Newbury, cruising home to leave David Bridgwater’s The Giant Bolster seven lengths behind in his wake. He looked to be travelling well when capsizing three from home in last year’s Gold Cup but disappointed on his final outing of the season at Aintree in the Betfred Bowl Chase in April. He started as the evens favourite but could only finish third, two lengths behind the winner, Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant.
This French-bred son of Dom Alco is only a seven-year-old and is open to further improvement. Nicholls thinks he is a bigger, stronger horse this year and is pleased with him at home. He has a very decent jockey in Noel Fehily, who has won on him twice before, to help his cause. He has to be one for the shortlist.
David Pipe’s Dynaste (6/1) has also attracted support. The yard sent out four winners on the final day of Cheltenham last week. Three of them were having their first run of the season. We are told that Dynaste is in good form and Pipe is confident that the trip round Haydock will suit him. He won a three mile handicap hurdle there two years ago so it is easy to believe him.
He is another horse who will be having his first run of the season. Last year his record was an impressive four from five. He made his chasing debut at Cheltenham, winning a novice chase over two and a half miles and followed up with a facile victory in a similar Grade 2 contest at Newbury a fortnight later. He successfully stepped up to three miles in the Grade 1 Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, romping home on heavy ground. He beat Henderson’s Hadrian’s Approach by nine lengths.
He also has a great record when fresh, winning first time out in the past two seasons. This is the strongest opposition he has ever faced but, as a seven-year-old, he could be another improver and has to be respected.
The Giant Bolster (20/1) is David Bridgwater’s stable star. He last triumphed in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham in January 2012. This likeable, extremely game eight-year-old looks set to experience his default view in the closing stages – the hind-quarters of more talented rivals.
If he is sent out in good order (which is far from guaranteed) he often picks up place money. He came second to Jonjo O’Neill’s ill-fated Synchronised in the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup when the two market leaders underperformed. He finished fourth by 16 lengths to Bobs Worth in the last Gold Cup when they didn’t. He was seven lengths adrift of Silviniaco Conti when coming third in this race last year and finished exactly the same distance behind him when second in the Denman Chase. It takes more than optimism to see him improving on that position.
The twelve-year-old veteran of the field, Nicholls’ Tidal Bay (9/1) also spends the majority of his time looking at other horses’ rear ends. Hold-up tactics seem to suit him. Unlike Bridgwater’s charge he has often managed to get the better of his rivals when it really matters, winning four of his last five starts.
He won the Grade 2 Bet365 Hurdle over three miles one furlong at Wetherby three weeks ago under Sam Twiston-Davies. He seems to have fully recovered from the hairline fracture that ended his previous season prematurely. Nicholls thinks it would be unwise to discount him, especially if conditions are testing. The excellent Twiston-Davies has been booked to take the ride.
No top quality chase would be complete without an Irish challenger and Gordon Elliott sends out Roi Du Mee (18/1), the surprise winner of the Champion Chase at Down Royal three weeks ago. He looked impressive, beating Henry De Bromhead’s Sizing Europe by 13 lengths. The strength of this form is questionable though as Sizing Europe doesn’t quite get three miles and the favourite, Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant, appeared to be below par.
In October Roi Du Mee came three-quarters of a length second to his stablemate, Toner D’Oudaires in a Grade 3 chase at Punchestown. That form suggests that he needs to have improved substantially to feature here.
Colin Tizzard sends out the talented seven-year-old Cue Card (7/1) in a bid to prove that he can perform over this longer distance. He has been very successful in Grade 1 chases up to two miles five furlongs but has only once been asked to run over three miles. It was not a success. He finished a very tired fifth in the King George last year on unsuitably heavy ground. He was twenty lengths behind the winner, Henderson’s Long Run.
He was disappointing in his seasonal debut at Exeter earlier this month. He started as the favourite but finished six lengths behind Mick Channon’s Sommersby in third. He slipped going into a fence and the Tizzards think that it contributed to his poor performance. Stamina is going to be a key credential on Saturday and other runners appear to have stronger claims.
The 2011 Gold Cup winner, Long Run (12/1) has no shortage of stamina but he also disappointed first time out this season. He was the 4/5 favourite in the Charlie Hall Chase three weeks ago but finished tailed off in last. He blundered badly half way through the race and scoped dirty afterwards. A dispute followed on whether the bad scope was a result of the impact he experienced at the 11th fence. Whatever the truth is, he does not appear to be the force of old (even though he is only eight) and is difficult to support with any confidence here despite the double-digit price.
Betfair Chase Betting Tips Verdict
This race presents a particularly fascinating puzzle. Much of the evidence suggests that Bobs Worth ought to win but Henderson has not made a particularly dazzling start to the season with a number of his runners disappointing. Silviniaco Conti looks to have a good chance of repeating last year’s win but does not offer any value at 5/2. Nicholls’ second string, TIDAL BAY is getting long in the tooth but has proved that he retains his ability. He looks to provide decent value and has to be our pick, each-way in an eight-runner race at 10/1 with BetVictor.
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.