Last year’s Betfair Chase was as good a race as you’ll see over fences at this trip, and is why the race made it onto my Top 5 Performances of the 2013/14 NH Season.
This year however Silviniaco Conti lines up having already had the benefit of a warm-up in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby a couple of weeks ago, and that should have helped him narrow the gap on Cue Card who had the clear fitness advantage in this race last season.
Dynaste once again comes into the race off the back of a summer break, but as we’ve seen in recent days that David Pipe continues to be a master at producing his fit and raring to go on their returns, two of the most notable cases being Katkeau and Unique De Cotte who both returned to win after a 600+ day break.
Throw into the mix recent Charlie Hall Chase winner Menorah, last year’s JLT Novices’ Chase winner Taquin Du Seuil and talented staying chaser Harry Topper we are in for an exciting clash on Saturday.
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Wicked Crack (IRE) (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Notes: An emphatic winner of this contest last year after following the same route, but had been off since suffering a stress fracture of his pelvis when runner-up behind Silviniaco Conti in the King George. He’d undergone a breathing op over the summer, and apparently looked fit enough for his return at Exeter being well supported in the market prior to the off. He struggled to match the pace of the speedier types when the race quickened, and dropped away to finish a tired fourth beaten 15 lengths by a pair of good two-milers. Whilst this performance was some way below his third in the race the previous year, you’d imagine Colin Tizzard will have his charge cherry ripe to defend his crown in this at the weekend, where once again Daryl Jacob will do the steering.
Double Eclipse (IRE) (16.1f) — Kinross (Nearly A Hand (9.6f))
Notes: A high-class novice last season for Nigel Twiston-Davies who showed no signs of ill effects from being brought down at October on his return this season, following that effort up with a solid third in this seasons Charlie Hall Chase. He gave the impression that day that he didn’t get home over the three miles and his profile in general gives the impression that two and a half miles is about his ceiling.
Martaline (17.2f) — Bellissima De Mai (FR) (Pistolet Bleu (IRE) (11.2f))
Notes: A horse I’ve always thought has plenty of potential as a chaser, and he went a long way to confirm that with an excellent display in last season’s Ryanair Chase under a good tactical ride from Tom Scudamore. An excellent second in this contest last season, arguably putting up a performance on par with his Ryanair showing would give him bold claims once again here but has to concede race fitness to both Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti his two main rivals on the book. David Pipe has proven a master at bringing horses back fit and raring to go, and there is every chance Dynaste may have improved again over the summer and he comes into this race with every chance of going one better than last year.
Sir Harry Lewis (USA) (14.8f) — Indeed To Goodness (IRE) (Welsh Term (10.5f))
Notes: A likeable sort from the resurging Kim Bailey yard who makes his seasonal debut here after being pulled-up in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter when last seen last March. He was re-routed to that contest after the ground dried up in his Gold Cup bid at Cheltenham, only to find the same happened at Uttoexter. His jumping that day was nowhere near good enough and that combined with the massive weight carried scuppered any chance of getting close to winning – being pulled up when behind. Jason Maguire takes over the ride again after being absent the last day, and he has struck up a very lucrative partnership with the gelded son of Sir Harry Lewis with form figures reading (11B1331). His Cheltenham form reads well having given away 10lb to winner The Giant Bolster who improved for the new headgear combination, and 5lb to Rocky Creek who ran a gallant fifth in the Grand National on his next start – a good effort for one so lightly raced over fences. His demolition of Al Ferof in the Denman Chase on Newbury on his next outing was devastating the way he broke that rival, running right up to his Cheltenham third – somewhere I’d estimate in around the high 160’s. Depending on how soft it gets at Haydock on Saturday, he wouldn’t be a forlorn hope at all.
Medaaly (9.3f) — Miss D´Hermite (FR) (Solicitor (FR))
Notes: Isn’t getting any younger at the age of ten and was on the cusp of stepping up into graded company when met with an injury setback a couple of years ago. He returned in fair form at the back-end of last season, and was a reasonable fourth at Wetherby on his return this campaign but gives the overall impression he’ll be out of his depth in this company.
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Maid For Adventure (IRE) (Strong Gale (12.5f))
Notes: A superb winner of the Charlie Hall Chase on his comeback three weeks ago, and in doing so continued the vintage form of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson in the early stages of the season. He has very much an in and out profile, and clearly doesn’t want the ground too soft but the fact this race is run flat track should help him last the three miles once again and has to be respected. Ground is clearly going to be the issue though, if it gets any softer then you can pretty much expect him to flounder – however if it is to dry up over the next couple of days you can expect a bold show from a horse who is in the form of his life.
Dom Alco (FR) — Gazelle Lulu (FR) (Altayan)
Notes: Third in this race last year when badly needing the run, Silviniaco Conti reversed form with his Haydock victor when landing the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day with a superb success. Fourth in one of the strangest Gold Cup finishes I’ve ever seen before winning the Betfred Bowl at Aintree on his last start of the campaign, he returned at Wetherby to run fifth in the Charlie Hall Chase, albeit over a distance shorter than advertised which wouldn’t have helped his claims. Despite him no doubt needed the run again on his seasonal return, it was hard not to be disappointed by his performance and on my ratings ran below a mark of 170 for the first time since April 2012. Whilst he will need to improve on that comeback, there is no doubt he’ll be running a big race on Saturday with that run in the locker and he should be capable of closing the gap on Cue Card when the pair met in this race twelve months ago.
Taquin Du Seuil
Voix Du Nord (FR) — Sweet Laly (FR) (Marchand De Sable (USA) (7.5f))
Notes: Winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase last season at the Cheltenham Festival, he came into this season as an exciting prospect for these types of races but ultimately I’ve been disappointed thus far. His comeback run at Newton Abbot was dire after being reported pretty straight for it (do we trust Jonjo though? I think not). He improved on that to run second in the Charlie Hall Chase, but was no match for the winner Menorah that said he didn’t look totally convincing on the track making a few routine errors during the race. Jonjo has opted to utilise the services of Barry Geraghty, and between them the pair have a strike-rate of 50% (3-6) this season, and 44% (4-9) overall so that has to be regarded as a positive.
The Giant Bolster
Black Sam Bellamy (IRE) (12.7f) — Divisa (GER) (Lomitas (11.1f))
Notes: Very much below par on his return at Wetherby on his seasonal debut, and in general his profile gives the impression he doesn’t do an awful lot away from Cheltenham these days. Well beaten in this last year it is hard to imagine him getting competitive once more and you’d imagine he will be once again campaigned to peak in March for the big one.
A top class renewal for the 2014 Betfair Chase, and one which looks like shaping into a fascinating contest with last year’s front three finishers returning here once again to do battle. Cue Card has again tuned up for this contest via the Haldon Gold Cup, and probably did well last time despite seemingly disappointing on the formbook. The first and second from that contest God’s Own and Balder Succes are high-class two milers and Cue Card is most definitely in need of further these days so his effort can probably be upgraded a touch on the bare form, given he was returning from a stress fracture to his pelvis and hadn’t run since the 2013 King George.
Unlike last year Silviniaco Conti comes into this race with a recent run under his belt, and having looked badly in need of it at Wetherby should strip plenty fitter for that effort. Paul Nicholls is likely to have still left a bit to work on. The combination of a soft surface and a flat track should have ‘Conti’ primed for a big run, although he’ll need to have improved heaps on that last disappointing effort – I for one suspect he will.
Harry Topper is one likely to out-run his odds, especially if the rain continues to fall making it into an attritional test, and Menorah would be of interest if the ground was able to dry out over the next couple of days after backing up with two top-class efforts.
Taquin Du Seuil certainly has the class but has somewhat disappointed me so far this season, and although excuse from probably not handling the track at Wetherby last time, he’ll need to improve his jumping to land this big prize – the booking of Barry Geraghty can be deemed a positive.
Which leaves me with my idea of the winner and my selection in the race DYNASTE. The David Pipe trained grey ran his joint best performance of the season in this race last year. With the Pound House team in excellent form at present, he is taken to have improved over the summer and really hand it to his more experience rivals this time round. With question marks over both Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti after both performed below their best seen in the last two years last time out; Cue Card (Dec 2012) and Silviniaco Conti (April 2012) it is worth handing another chance to the gelded son of Martaline, who apart from a poor run in the King George where he was reported to have pulled muscles during the race, had a fairly superb season.