Last week’s EW selection, Frodon, gave us a good run for our money at the generous odds of 16/1. Under another excellent ride, from the upwardly mobile Bryony Frost, the Top weight, just found the concession of 15lbs to the tough Baron Alco beyond him, and try as he might, was unable to pull back the freewheeling winner, up the punishing Cheltenham hill. The unlucky contender in the race was probably Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be who was travelling conspicuously well when brought down at the 4th last, so let’s hope none of the runners in Saturday’s Haydock Showpiece meet a similar fate, as it promises to be the best, and most revealing heat of the season so far, not least, because it features a rematch of the winner, Native River, and the runner up, Might Bite, of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The former hasn’t raced since his epic victory in March, but reports from down
Milbourne Port way, report “the apple of Colin Tizzard eye” in rude health and raring to go. The Markets make Might Bite a pretty short favourite taking the view that it was Native Rivers superior stamina that won the day at Cheltenham, and back on the flatter, and easier Haydock track, on better ground, placings are likely to be reversed, but I’m not so sure. The Tizzard horse had the pace to win over hurdles at 2m1f and has plenty of form at the highest level on flat left handed courses, (won the Grade1 Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree in 2016). The fact remains that on the only occasion Saturday’s “big two” have met, Native River prevailed by 4 1/2L, and with the £1million bonus (if bringing off the King George and Gold Cup treble) firmly in connections sights, the markets might just have got this one wrong.
Might Bite did go on from Cheltenham to win the Grade1 Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree by 7L from Bristol De Mai in April ( 2nd Course win), and with victories at Kempton, (King George) and two at Doncaster, there is no denying the Henderson horse’s preference for a flat track. With only sporadic outbursts of rain in the forecast, Henderson’s 9yo could find himself racing in his ideal conditions on Saturday so can’t easily be passed over.
Last year’s winner by 57L from the legendary Cue Card, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Bristol De Mai, May have something to say to those who think this year’s renewal is a two horse affair. A real Haydock specialist, he has a 100% record on the course and has won his three chases there by an average of 33L. He disappointed in his two races following last year’s win, but fared better following wind surgery, when chasing home Might Bite at Aintree in April. Ideally he would like plenty of rain but with the going unlikely to be anything faster than Good/Soft, if he gets away from his field the opposition will have their work cut out to peg him back.
Colin Tizzard’s second string, Thistlecrack looked to have the world at his feet when hosing up in the 2016 King George but has been a big disappointment in his subsequent 3 races. However Colin reports him back on track and a reproduction of his Kempton win would make the 10yo a danger to all.
Paul Nicholls has won an amazing 6 of the 13 renewals of The Betfair Chase, (4 times with the immortal Kauto Star and twice with Silviniaco Conti) so any contender from Ditcheat needs the closest appraisal, which has to make Clan Des Obeaux of interest.The 6yo son of Kapgarde has won 3 of his 10 chases showing a steadily progressive profile, and the way he won the Graduation Chase (2m5 1/2f) on heavy ground, on Saturday’s Card last year, strongly suggests that the 3m1 1/2f at the weekend could see further improvement. He took it up 2 out and stayed on well to draw clear on the run in to win by 7L on the heavy ground. With the Ditcheat operation firing in the winners from all directions, he’s well worth a second look!
Irish yards have yet to land a “Betfair” but Maestro, Gordon Elliott with 3 entered looks as if he might be serious about correcting the deficit, and if his super mare,
Shattered Love, takes her chance we could see the prize heading in the direction of The Emerald Isle. A winner of 5 of her 9 starts, the 7yo daughter of the triple Ascot Gold Cup winner, Yeats, put up her best performance to date when winning the Grade1 JLT Novices Chase (2m4f) at The Cheltenham Festival in March by 7L from Terrefort, staying on strongly from the last. She probably had had enough for the season when well beaten over 3 miles at The Punchestown Festival in April, but following a 193 day break, made a satisfactory reappearance at Down Royal 3 weeks ago (2m3 1/2f). Easy in the market, she kept on well to finish second, strongly suggesting that a return to further would suit. She has won a Leopardstown Grade1 over 3 miles, and her pedigree, (Out of the Bustino Mare Tracker which makes her a half sister to the talented staying chaser Irish Cavalier), certainly suggests that Saturday’s trip should be well within her compass, and with the benefit of her 7lbs Mares Allowance she must hold out serious prospects of becoming the first Irish winner of the contest.
Selection: Native River
E.W. : Shattered Love. (If abs Bristol De Mai)