Ready for this weekend’s jumps action? You can already bet on Saturday’s G1 Betfair Chase, which takes place at Haydock Racecourse (3:00pm).
The whole card at the famous Merseyside venue is strong and the first race of the day is the Listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle (12:10pm). We have an amazing offer for new customers! Deposit and bet a minimum of £10 on this race and you will get a £10 free bet that you can use on any other race! Click here to join RaceBets and make your deposit.
Heavy ground has led to connections switching Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, to the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown.
“Sadly he’s not running because the ground is soft, heavy in places and there’s a bit more rain due,” said trainer Jessica Harrington.
“It’s just the ground. I’ve been a bit worried all week. I didn’t mind soft, genuine soft ground, but when they start putting heavy into Haydock, it gets very heavy.
“Plan B will be the John Durkan and then we’ll take it from there.”
The decision is likely to have been made with a heavy heart, as an incredible £1m bonus is on offer for any horse that can win the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, during the same campaign.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai looks likely to start as favourite. The 6-year-old narrowly beat Blaklion, in the Charlie Hall Chase – a race in which both horses emerged with a great deal of credit.
Cue Card is 5 years older, but can still be a major factor in a contest he won by 15 lengths in 2016 (his third Betfair Chase victory, in 4 years). The veteran has fallen twice though, in his last 3 races, so fingers will be crossed that the King’s Theatre-gelding gets a clear round.
Gordon Elliott has now joined the top-tier of National Hunt trainers and Outlander arrives with fairly strong claims. He looked rusty at Punchestown, but Outlander’s half-length defeat of Road To Respect in the Champion Chase means it is likely that he will find friends in the market.
Nick Williams will be hoping he can brew-up a surprise, with Tea For Two, but the 8-year-old will need to have made some big strides since he flopped at Aintree in late-October. Let’s not forget though that he ended the previous season with the defeat of Cue Card, in G1 company at the same racecourse. Bristol De Mai finished almost 25 lengths behind Tea For Two, in that encounter. Could Williams’ inmate, who uncharacteristically unseated Lizzie Kelly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the 2nd fence, be the value bet on Saturday?
With just 6 runners expected to line-up now, each-way backers might want to take a look at Gary Moore’s Traffic Fluide, who has been switched from the Christy 1965 Chase. Moore clearly senses there is an opportunity with the testing conditions and does not see three miles as being a major issue.
“I would say the opposition is more of a worry than the trip. It’s a tough race. It will be the first time he’s really got his ground, he didn’t really get it last year.”, he says.
Shantou Flyer is the remaining runner, but his starting-price of 40/1 looked well-justified in the Charlie Hall. Richard Hobson’s charge trailed in last of 5 and by some considerable margin.
Despite the withdrawal of Sizing John, this race should still be something to savour. Make sure that you don’t miss watching it live, on ITV Racing!