The Betfair Chase(3.05) is the feature race on an excellent card at Haydock Park on Saturday afternoon. This year’s renewal is a particularly fascinating contest, as it is a meeting of the proven stars of the game, and the new kids on the block.
Reigning King George and Gold Cup winner Long Run is the undoubted star attraction, as he bids to get the new campaign off to the perfect start. The Nicky Henderson trained 6-y-o is trading at just over evens with the sponsors and is sure to be well punted at those prices. While he was defeated in a handicap chase at Cheltenham first time up last season, his jumping was the main issue and he had previously shown in France that he can go well after a break. On official ratings he has 12Ibs in hand of tomorrow’s field and barring accidents he should begin the season on a high.
Diamond Harry returns from injury and has been well supported antepost. He is arguably one of the improvers in the field and off a rating of 166 he looks one of the strongest challengers to the favourite. His trainer Nick Williams is an expert at having one ready after a long layoff and it would be a surprise should he fail through lack of fitness. The 2010 Hennessy winner has also had problems with his jumping and will need to be on his “a” game on Saturday.
Kauto Star has a point to prove after his disappointing show at Punchestown on his final start last season and has been largely overlooked in the betting. Rated 190 when losing out to Long Run at Kempton he has been dropped an astonishing 20Ibs in the interim. Paul Nicholl’s stable star has won on his reappearance in the last three seasons and may just be more wound up than usual this time. With the King George and Gold Cup no longer looking his for the taking, the Betfair Chase is a fine prize in it’s own right and may well be Kauto’s main target this campaign. A price of 2/1 Kauto Star to place with Betfair looks value.
Weird Al and Time For Rupert represent the up and coming chasers out to dethrone the established stars. The pair of the advantage of a previous outing, finishing 1-2 in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last month. There is unlikely to be a great deal between them again tomorrow but Wetherby victor Weird Al may have improved for the switch to Donald McCain and could be the surprise packet in the race.
In what is certain to be an informative race with a view to the season ahead, a watching brief is the best advice. For those that want to get involved, a place bet on Kauto Star or Weird Al on Betfair looks the way to go.