by MARK REISER. A truly A-list field has gathered for the 2017 Betfair Chase on Saturday and it is easy to see why when you consider the potential prize on offer. A cool £1million will go to any horse that can win Haydock’s Grade One contest, the King George on Boxing Day and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. The legendary Kauto Star pulled it off a decade ago, but no horse has since matched his hat-trick heroics. This year’s hopefuls include Bristol De Mai, Sizing John, Cue Card and Outlander, so it really is a who’s who of the leading lights in the UK and Ireland.
Bristol De Mai is the ante-post favourite and more cash is going on him than anyone else right now. He has two wins under his belt on this track and the going is set to be very soft, which will play to his strengths. “It looks perfect for Bristol De Mai,” admitted trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is enjoying a strong season. “He is an exciting horse. He is only six and we hope he is coming to his best now.”
The grey gelding warmed up in style in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby a couple of weeks ago where he beat stablemate Blaklion despite giving him six pounds. The best betting sites will have odds on this race and Bristol De Mai is currently the 6/4 favourite. However, Jessica Harrington must be quietly confident that Sizing John can get the better of him. He struggled to beat the best in the business over two miles but flourished when stepping up in distance and went on to win all three Gold Cups last season. He finished the campaign as the biggest name in National Hunt racing and is back to cement his celebrated status with a first run of the season.
Sizing John may need the race
Sizing John may be a little rusty compared to Bristol De Mai, and he may not respond so well to the soft ground, but he certainly has the legs to beat all challengers in this contest. “My only worry is the three hard races might leave a mark on him,” said Harrington. But he had hard races the year before and seemed to come out of it very well.” Owner Alan Potts sadly passed away a fortnight ago, and Sizing John’s appearance will be tinged with poignancy. Punters are likely to back him in their droves too at odds as long as 3/1.
Cue Card is currently trading at 10/3 and that is another fabulous price for a horse that has won this race in three of the last four years. We know he loves the course and the trip, so he should be in the mix at the business end of the race. He fell a couple of weeks ago at Wetherby, but assistant trainer Joe Tizzard shrugged it off, saying: “We have seen Cue Card do some serious demolition jobs there and as long as the fall does not leave any ill effects on him, he should run a huge race again. He bounced back at Aintree after the first Gold Cup fall and bounced back there again after the second Gold Cup fall.”
With Outlander and Tea For Two also lining up, it is an extremely strong field. But there is also the £100,000 Betfair Stayers Hurdle to look forward to. The Worlds End is heading the betting from Minella Awards, No Hassle Hoff and Sam Spinner in what promises to be another high quality contest. Le Rocher looks a great long shot at 10/1 in that race as the step up in distance should suit him while he too will relish the going.