The Betfair Chase (registered as the Lancashire Chase) has a short history but one packed with quality. The race has quickly established itself as an elite contest and one which regularly attracts the very best staying chasers from England and Ireland.
One only needs a quick glance at the roll of honours to see Gold Cup winners and King George winners often take early season steps at Haydock Park.
The inaugural Betfair Chase, run over 3 miles, took place in 2005, when the Robert Alner trained Kingscliff, bounced back to his very best form, to beat a high class field including Gold Cup winner Kicking King and the prolific Grade 1 winner Beef or Salmon.
The following year saw the start of Kauto Star’s domination of the race; in all Paul Nicholls’ superstar chaser captured the Betfair Chase on 4 occasions between 2006 and 2011.
However, in 2006, Kauto Star was very much a young horse taking his first steps towards future Gold Cup glory. The Betfair Chase was the first time that the public got to see Kauto Star race over 3 miles – and he emphatically proved that the trip held no fears for him with an impressive success over Beef or Salmon and L’Ami.
By the following November, Kauto Star was a King George and Gold Cup winner and went into the 2007 Betfair Chase as the leading staying chaser in the country. In an exciting renewal, featuring the first 3 from that year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kauto Star again beat the Gold Cup runner-up Exotic Dancer by just half a length, with dear old Beef or Salmon back in third place and the Arkle Trophy winner My Way De Solzen a disappointing fifth.
In 2008, Kauto Star was therefore bidding for a hat-trick of victories in the race. Having been beaten by the mighty Denman in the Gold Cup, Kauto Star had returned to form at Down Royal but at Haydock, having made a bad blunder at the third last, he clouted the final fence and unseated Sam Thomas.
In a fabulous outcome for the underdog, the complete outsider of the 6 runners, Snoopy Loopy, ran on magnificently to claim a most unexpected prize, ahead of Tamarinbleu and the out of sorts Exotic Dancer.
Later that season Kauto Star regained his Gold Cup crown – the first horse to do so – and he went to Haydock the following winter, as a hot favourite to claim his third Betfair Chase. What transpired in that 2009 renewal was a dramatic finish, as the Ryanair Chase winner Imperial Commander, stepping up to 3 miles, gave the favourite an almighty battle. At the line there was virtually nothing to separate the two brave horses but Kauto Star was given the verdict by a nose.
Imperial Commander gained revenge in the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup and Nigel Twiston-Davies sent his 9 year old to Haydock for his seasonal debut. The champion put up an impressive performance to comfortably hold the fast-finishing Tidal Bay and looked set for another terrific season before niggling setbacks affected his preparations for the Gold Cup.
A thrilling 2011 Gold Cup saw Denman and Kauto Star back in the fray and running tremendously behind a new champion, the youngster Long Run. Nicky Henderson’s 6 year old had already beaten Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase in 2010 and was largely expected to be the next horse to dominate the chasing scene, starting off with the 2011 Betfair Chase.
Sadly Imperial Commander had been injured in the Gold Cup and didn’t make the line-up, but Kauto Star, now an 11 year old, was back to take on a field of young horses including Time for Rupert, Weird Al and Diamond Harry. Long Run started a hot favourite but a bold front-running display from Kauto Star and some spectacular leaps, put Long Run’s jumping under pressure and the old horse gradually pulled away from his rival to record an emotional and seemingly incredible victory.
It was Kauto Star’s fourth victory in the Betfair Chase – a race he had run in 5 times and his victory seemed to defy his age and seemingly deteriorating form. But Kauto Star and Ruby Walsh were not content with that win and followed up with a remarkable fifth success in the King George VI Chase.
The 2012 renewal saw Long Run back for another crack at the Betfair Chase, whilst Kauto Star had been retired. The onus looked very much on Long Run to dominate racing now but it was Paul Nicholls’ promising young chaser, Silviniaco Conti, who jumped better than the Gold Cup winner and ran out a ready winner of the race.
A year later however, Silviniaco Conti could only finish third to Cue Card and Dynaste, although the trio reversed places in the King George VI Chase a month later. He confirmed himself a chaser of the highest order in 2014 however, regaining his Betfair Chase crown with a two lengths defeat of Menorah, to be come just the second multiple winner of the race.
In 2015, Cue Card matched that feat, with a fine performance to match his 2013 success. The following year, the veteran chaser made it three victories with an emotional win that helped seal the Cue Card legend.
Cue Card was back again in 2017, but no match for the imperious Bristol De Mai, who slammed the three-time winner by a remarkable 57 lengths.
The Betfair Chase is without a doubt a race that attracts champions and will continue to do so for many years to come. However, whatever the race’s future roll of honour contains, Kauto Star has already set the bar very high for every future winner to aim for.
|2017||Bristol De Mai|