Betfair introduced the Million Pound Bonus in 2005 for the inaugural running of the Betfair Chase before dropping it in 2010. But in 2015, The Jockey Club brought the initiative back and once again horses will be competing for this supreme prize. Having only been won by Kauto Star in the 2006/2007 season, it’s about time we witnessed another winner. On seven occasions horses have won two of the three legs, including Cue Card before he sadly fell when going strongly in the 2016 Gold Cup. We’ll have our selection for the Betfair Chase live on Friday evening, but in the meantime, check out our daily horse racing tips!
Betfair Chase – The opening leg of the Triple Crown which was first run in 2005. It takes place at Haydock each year in late November. Because it’s the first race of the bonus it attracts plenty of attention and speculation as to who is going to run in an attempt to secure the first step on the road to the bonus. Often run in arduous conditions, it can be a very unique stamina test when the going is heavy which makes it difficult to recover in time for the next leg.
King George VI Chase – Run at Kempton on Boxing Day, it is the speediest test of the three contests. Because the track is very flat, it provides a different challenge to that of Cheltenham and horses need that little bit of natural speed.
Gold Cup – The third and final race of the ‘Chase Triple Crown’ is the feature contest of the biggest week in National Hunt racing. There is no better stage than the Cheltenham Festival and if a horse is lucky enough to be heading there with a chance to win an extra £1m, then it’ll be a race like no other for connections.
Native River – Had a titanic tussle with Might Bite in the Gold Cup last season where his seemingly never-ending stamina won him the day. Now rated 176, he’s the highest rated chaser in training. Himself and Richard Johnson are a match made in heaven. His best efforts have come when there has been some juice in the ground and although he handles better ground, he performs best on a softer surface. He certainly could win the Betfair Chase if they don’t have any rain but whether he’ll have enough speed to do it is another matter entirely. A soft ground King George would probably be needed for him as the conditions would blunt the speed of some of his rivals. Then again the track could suit him if he bowls along in front, we know how tough he is to pass! He’s the reigning Gold Cup champion, so that leg is certainly not questionable!
Might Bite – Went down on his sword in the Gold Cup last season behind Native River. The pair went at it hammer and tongs the whole way round which took it’s toll on Nicky Henderson’s star. He appeared out on his feet and the stamina reserves ran out. It was unusually testing ground at Cheltenham this year and Might Bite showed us what he can do on better ground in the RSA in 2017. A sound surface in March and it would be no surprise to see him right the wrong from last season. Already a winner of the King George at Kempton, that track and trip seem perfect for his blend of speed and stamina. Ground conditions look set to suit the son of Scorpion at Haydock for the Betfair Chase and the flat track should definitely play to his strengths. He’s yet to race at the venue but it shouldn’t be any problem.
Bristol De Mai – An emphatic 57 length winner of the Betfair Chase last season, Haydock clearly brings out the best in him. Three visits have yielded three wins by a combined 112 lengths, which is quite frankly ridiculous! All those wins have come on soft or heavy going and he seems to be a much better horse in testing conditions, but he’s impossible to rule out at Haydock whatever the going given his record. Well-beaten in sixth by Might Bite in the King George last year, the Betfair Chase may have taken plenty out of him so he’s better judged on his Aintree run in April, for which he has 7 lengths to find with Nicky Henderson’s horse. He can’t be ruled out of the Kempton contest if having an easier race at Haydock this time around. He’s yet to win at Cheltenham which would be a slight worry with the Gold Cup in mind. Even though the stamina test of the race looks sure to suit, he could only manage seventh in the race behind Sizing John in 2017. But he was only 6 years old then and has developed plenty since.
Thistlecrack – Won the King George back in 2016 in superb style, carrying on from his unbeaten 2015/16 campaign over hurdles. His talent is there for all to see but his career has sadly been curtailed by injury in recent times. Following fifth and fourth placed finishes in his last couple of starts, a lot is to be taken on trust as to whether he can hit the heights he once did. If he does, then he should be feared by all. He’s never been to Haydock but there isn’t any track or ground worries for him. He’s already a King George winner so that’s a box ticked. A potential worry about the Gold Cup would be his stamina, we don’t know if he’ll stay the trip and given his exuberant run style, it could be a doubt.