Might have first Bite of million pound bonus.IT COMES thick and fast at this time of year.
Cheltenham whetted the appetite for the season ahead last weekend, the Betfair Chase (3.00pm) is Saturday’s highlight.
it’s then on to Newbury for the Ladbrokes Trophy, before Sandown hosts the Tingle Creek.
It’s a feast of jump racing that never disappoints and the Jockey Club are dangling their million pound carrot once again.
Any horse that wins the Betfair Chase, King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup this campaign will scoop the massive pot, which is undoubtedly part of the reason why Saturday’s first leg looks so strong even though there are only five runners.
Bristol De Mai won last year’s Betfair Chase by an astonishing 57 lengths. In fact, in three visits to Haydock no horse has ever got nearer than 22 lengths to him.
The fences aren’t the hardest and he clearly loves the flat, tight track, so there’s an argument to say that 6/1 is a very fair price.
However, all three of those runs have been on soft or heavy ground and with next to no rain forecast, conditions are going to be much quicker than we’d normally get at this time of year.
Gold Cup winner Native River perhaps doesn’t rely on bottomless conditions as much as Bristol De Mai, although softer ground does help and I’m also worried about this course for him.
All of his best form has been on the big galloping tracks like Newbury, Chepstow and Cheltenham, where stamina is vital.
I wonder if he might get done for pace here and with the ground likely to be no worse than good-to-soft, MIGHT BITE has to be the call at evens with the sponsors.
Nicky Henderson’s son of Scorpion has only been beaten once in his last seven starts when a 4½ length second to Native River in the Gold Cup.
Many argued that if it had been run on good ground he would have won, so conditions are certainly likely to suit him better than his two main adversaries in the market.
Last season’s King George winner is already a strong favourite to retain his crown at Kempton and it would be no surprise if he arrived at Cheltenham with the first two legs safely in the locker.
Whether he can win the big one in March is another matter, but this race looks tailor made for him and it’s a bonus that regular pilot Nico De Boinville has been given the all-clear to ride him.
The final field for the valuable Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle (2.25pm) was revealed this morning and it was a bit of a surprise to see only eight declared.
That may well be down to some trainers running scared of First Assignment because if he turns up in the same form as at Cheltenham last Saturday, there’s only going to be one result.
He was clearly miles ahead of his mark, but Ian Williams said afterwards that he’s not the most robust horse and his hand has been forced somewhat with him due to go up a massive 13lbs.
He can run with a 5lb penalty here, so is clearly well-in, but he’s a short price at just 11/8 and I’d rather back one each-way against him
THEO’S CHARM has finished third and second in the last two renewals of this race and although he’d prefer softer ground, he shouldn’t be far away.
His only other run at Haydock was a close second in a Pertemps qualifier in February, so we know he loves the Lancashire track.
Coral’s 12/1 looks a very fair each-way price considering there are just the eight runners.
I’m sticking with course form in the finale (3.35pm), as CAPTAIN REDBEARD has never finished outside the first three in five runs at Haydock.
Last year’s Tommy Whittle winner was an excellent third over hurdles at Carlisle on his reappearance a few weeks ago and looks an each-way bet to nothing at 7/1 with Betfair.
Aux Ptits Soins e/w 2.25pm Haydock
Theo’s Charm e/w 2.25pm Haydock
Might Bite 3.00pm Haydock
Captain Redbeard e/w 3.35pm Haydock