The hugely anticipated Betfair Million starts on Saturday, November 19, when a high-class group of horses will line up for the £150,000 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park.
The new Betfair Chase is the first of the three races involved in the £1-million bonus - the others being the Stan James King George VI Chase at Sandown on Boxing Day and the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 17.
The bonus, the biggest ever offered in jump racing, will be won if the a horse captures all three races.
Last season's Gold Cup hero Kicking King and King George VI runner-up Kingscliff are both set to run the three-mile Grade One event at Haydock on November 19.
Kicking King suffered a surprise reversal when second to War Of Attrition on his seasonal debut at Punchestown last month, but trainer Tom Taaffe has the seven-year-old in fine fettle for the Betfair Chase.
Taaffe reported today: "Kicking King is very good - we're very happy with him and we're on course for the Betfair Chase.
"The race at Punchestown was hopefully a stepping stone for the rest of the season for us - he was as fit as he was the previous year when he went to Gowran Park.
"As it turned out, this year that wasn't good enough because maybe some of the others had more match practice, but it was a good start and I was very happy with it."
Taaffe is relishing the prospect of challenge for the Betfair Million: "If everything goes according to plan, then we'll definitely aim for those three races.
"He's on song and he's going to the Betfair Chase. We're happy at the moment but first we'll see what happens at Haydock".
Robert Alner is thrilled with eight-year-old Kingscliff after his recent second at Wetherby to Ollie Magern and ahead of his engagement in the Betfair Chase.
The Dorset trainer said today: "I rode him this morning (Tuesday) and he's very well. My wife usually rides him, but we gave him a piece of work and she got me to ride him to see how he was and I was very pleased with him.
"He worked very well. I was thrilled to bits with his Wetherby effort - it was a very good run in my book."
Alner says that his charge will most likely contest the three prestigious prizes that make up the Betfair Million but experience has taught him not to look too far ahead.
He commented: "The Betfair Million is there and it would be lovely to win it but we've got a job to win one race let alone three.
"We're certainly not avoiding it but the plan this year is one race at a time. We don't want to plan that far ahead because this season we want to get plenty of racing into him if possible. He came out of the last race fine and we go to the next one and so on.
"The Betfair Million races will come into the schedule but we're not going to hold him up for any particular thing. We're just going to run because we were caught out last season in that we waited for the Gold Cup and never got there, so now, if the horse is fit, we're going to run and not worry too much about the future.
"He operates in anything but extremes of going and, with the weather as it has been, I think the ground at Haydock will be fine."
Haydock stages the first day of the new North West Masters on Saturday, November 19, and, as well as the Betfair Chase, has the most valuable three-mile handicap hurdle run in Britain, the £70,000 betfairpoker.com Handicap Hurdle, among the seven races. The second day of the North West Masters is at Aintree, on Sunday, November 20.
Betfair co-founder Andrew Black is pleased at the massive interest the bonus has generated.
Black said: "I'm delighted the connections of some of the sport's leading chasers are targeting the Betfair Million which should be a spine-tingling early season highlight.
"We answered racing's call for a race like this to be staged and it would be a personal thrill to sign over a million pounds if a horse could achieve the realistic goal of winning the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Gold Cup."
The Betfair Million will be distributed to connections in the following proportions if won - 75 per cent to the owner, 10 per cent to the trainer, 10 per cent to the jockey, and 5 per cent to the stable staff.
Betfair Million To Be Won - Betfair bet: 2-13 No, 5-1 Yes
KING HARALD SET TO REAPPEAR AT CHELTENHAM, MULLINS AND MOORE COULD BE REPRESENTED IN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER NOVICES' CHASE & GREATWOOD LAUNCHES TEXT DONATIONS AT THE OPEN
King Harald, last seen out when triumphant in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in March, looks set to make his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham in the £55,000 Grade Three Servo Computer Services Trophy Handicap Chase.
The race, over an extended three miles and three furlongs, takes place at 2.45pm on Saturday, November 12, the second day of The Open.
Despite also holding an engagement in the paddypower.com Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (1.50pm) over three furlongs less the day before, Sara Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark Bradstock, revealed today that the longer race was the more likely target providing the ground does not deteriorate.
She said: "We are still undecided about which race he is going for because we have to know what everyone else is doing, but we're edging towards the Saturday race.
"He'll have less weight to carry and the Friday race is perfectly competitive and not an easy option at all. He needs an outing and will definitely run in one of the two races. He's fit enough to do himself justice and is in extremely good form."
The seven-year-old's success in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase came over two miles and five furlongs and the longest trip he has won over was three miles at Newbury in January, but this is not something that concerns Bradstock.
She continued: "He's always finished every race wanting further and I have no worry about the distance with him.
"Obviously, we don't want him to have too hard a race this weekend as his big aim is the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, and it's closer than we would like, but the other races he was going to run in have been off.
"If it got very soft, however, we would favour the shorter race on Friday but Cheltenham drains very well and it should be fine."
A total of 22 horses have been entered for the Servo Computer Services Trophy, which is part of the British Horseracing Board's Order of Merit series.
Other possible contenders include last year's winner Stormez, El Vaquero, First Gold, Grattan Lodge, I Hear Thunder, Iris Bleu, Jack High, Lord Of Illusion and Sir Rembrandt.
MULLINS AND MOORE COULD BE REPRESENTED IN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER NOVICES' CHASE
Trainers Willie Mullins and Gary Moore are both considering a tilt at Sunday's chasing feature at Cheltenham, the £40,000 Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase (2.05pm) over two miles at Cheltenham.
The Grade Two race has been won in recent seasons by Best Mate, Azertyuiop, Thisthatandtother and Fundamentalist.
Mullins is contemplating running Davenport Democrat, although the Irish handler will not make a final decision until later in the week.
Davenport Democrat has won his last three starts over fences, most recently in a Cork two-mile handicap chase on October 16 when he defeated Beechcourt by half a length.
Mullins revealed: "It's just a speculative entry at the moment. We'll see what the entries are like and the ground, as he needs it on the good side.. He's fit and well but I probably won't decide until Thursday."
The Co Carlow trainer also has entries in two of the other big races at The Open, the £110,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase (3.20pm) on Saturday, November 12, and the £50,000 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (2.40pm) on Sunday, November 13.
He continued: "Euro Leader is in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. I've Mountain Snow and Adamant Approach in the Greatwood Hurdle and both missed their engagements on Saturday with the meeting at Down Royal being called off. They're all fit and in good order.
"Mountain Snow is fit from running in the summer and Adamant Approach has had one run back. Cheltenham is not Adamant Approach's luckiest racetrack - he had the Supreme Novices' Hurdle (2002) at his mercy when he was in front and fell at the last but he did run one good race there.
"I'll see what is happening during the week with the weather and the ground."
Another trainer with the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase in his sights is Gary Moore, who could be represented by his recent Cheltenham scorer Flying Spirit.
Flying Spirit, who won the cheltenham.co.uk Novices' Chase over two miles at the course on October 25, is also entered in the Jim Brown Memorial Novices' Chase over two and a half miles the previous day, but the Grade Two contest is the more likely option.
The Brighton-based handler explained: "At the moment, I'm looking at the two-mile race, although he may not go for either. If the going was soft he wouldn't run, he needs it good or quicker. The horse is grand and worked very well this morning and I'm very pleased with him.
"It's a very tough assignment that he's going to take on though - his last race was not of the quality of the Cheltenham races this weekend.
"He'll have to contest the top novice races though as he's badly handicapped now. I think he's just as effective at two and a half miles. The Scilly Isles Novice Chase (at Sandown in February ) would be on the agenda, and then Cheltenham for The Festival - either the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy or the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase."
Other possibles from the 20 entries include the 2004 Greatwood Hurdle victor Accordion Etoile, Albuhera, Bold Bishop, Cerium, Feel The Pride, Tiger Cry, Tamarinbleu and Va Vavoom.
The ground at Cheltenham remained GOOD TO SOFT this morning.
Further rain has been forecast for this afternoon and into this evening.
Tickets will be available on the gates for all three days of The Open.
Friday/Sunday admission prices are Club/Tattersalls: £20 (16-24s: £12); Best Mate £8.
Saturday's admission prices are Club: £30 (16-24s £20); Tattersalls: £20: Tattersalls seat: £15; Best Mate £10.
Car Parking Free.
GREATWOOD LAUNCHES TEXT DONATIONS AT THE OPEN
Greatwood Caring for Retired Racehorses will be offering racegoers and punters the chance to donate to the charity by text message at The Open. A donation of £1.50 can be made by simply texting the number 89080 with the message GIVE GW.
This is a simple and easy way to donate - and whilst it is not a big donation, the team at Greatwood say that every penny counts!
Helen Yeadon, Greatwood's founder and trustee, said: "We are always trying to come up with new ways of raising funds, and this is a simple and easy way for people to donate. If everyone that had a mobile phone - either at the races or watching The Open - sent us a text donation of just £1.50 we could raise thousands of pounds to help horses that may have fallen on hard times in retirement."
Greatwood are in evidence at Cheltenham as the nominated charity at the Countryside Race day on Friday, November 11 and for the £50,000 Greatwood Hurdle on Sunday, November 13. Greatwood horses - including Deano's Beeno - will be parading on both these days.
Please note that text messages must be typed in uppercase with a space between GIVE and GW and sent to 89080. £1.50 will be donated from the donors phone balance or account. A reverse bill message will be received stating 'Thx 4 your £1.50 donation to Greatwood'.
Regular monthly donations of £1.50 may also be given by texting GIVE GW M
For general information on Greatwood go to www.racehorsesgreatwood.org
Based at Rainscombe Hill Farm, located on the A345 just two miles south of Marlborough in Wiltshire. Founded in 1990, Greatwood is a charity that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes ex-racehorses. Greatwood supports horse racing and encourages all others that love the sport to help us succeed in our work.
The majority of owners and trainers will do their best to ensure that their horses go on to good homes following their retirement from racing - with some going on to successfully compete in other equestrian disciplines.
Greatwood is the safety net for horses that may fall on hard times in their retirement. Greatwood retains ownership of every horse, which goes to its new home on 'permanent loan' with regular welfare checks throughout its life.
HORSES FROM THE GREATWOOD THOROUGHBRED REHABILITATION CENTRE THAT WILL PARADE AT THE OPEN MEETING
13 y-o Bay Gelding
Far North - Sans Dot (Busted)
Last Trainer - Martin Pipe
Will parade on Friday and before the Greatwood Hurdle on Sunday.
In a career spanning almost 10 years, Deano's Beeno had an excellent hurdles record of 11 wins, one of which was the Grade One Cantor Sport Long Walk Hurdle in 2002, when he beat the outstanding Baracouda on level weights. Six of his hurdle wins were in Grade Two events.
A fast and fluent jumper, he was one of racing's top staying hurdlers. In addition to multiple hurdle wins, he also won once on the Flat and once over fences. He retired from racing in June 2004 and was gifted to Greatwood, possibly because of his renowned quirkiness.
Deano's has been at Greatwood over a year, he has undertaken several parades for the centre: twice at Greatwood's Annual Open Day, Gatcombe, Newbury Racecourse, Barbury Castle Horse Trials and at Cheltenham's Open Meeting.
During the last year it has been discovered that Deano's has absolutely no intention of undertaking an alternative career. He achieved some notoriety with Tony McCoy when refusing to start at Cheltenham and tried exactly the same tactic with Susie Dennis (who will lead him up at this year's Open Meeting) when he first started working at Greatwood and it was tacitly decided that if the great AP had little or no chance of getting him going then Susie had absolutely no chance.
He is however, a great ambassador for Greatwood. The horse loves parading and Greatwood has gained many supporters because he is the flagship.
6 y-o Bay Gelding
Master Willie -Ormania (Synefos (USA))
Will parade on Friday.
Red Willie arrived at Greatwood in September, 2005. Bred for jumping, he had five runs for Martin Pipe.
Racing did not appear to be his chosen forte and he was pulled up twice in his five races.
He was sent to Greatwood because at his relatively young age his racing connections felt that he deserved to have a go at another career which perhaps may suit him better.
He was let down for a couple of months enjoying the late summer and is now in light work. An agreeable kind horse, Greatwood is looking for someone to take him on to perhaps undertake the odd unaffiliated event. He is bright, enthusiastic, loves hacking out and looks sure to do well in the future.
7 y-o Bay Gelding
Fairy King (USA) - Tough Lady (Bay Express)
Will parade on Friday.
Originally in training with Ian Balding, Lisianski had 16 starts with four wins.
He was sent to Greatwood because his owner wanted to make sure that his future would be secure.
Lisianski was re-homed a couple of years ago, but sadly, his carer's circumstances changed and he returned to Greatwood; this demonstrates that the Greatwood system works and Lisianski was not faced with an uncertain future.
Upon return to Greatwood, he has undertaken several unaffiliated show jumping events and has represented Greatwood by parading at The Maybach Barbury Castle Horse Trials.
He has recently been re-homed again and it is to be hoped that he will continue to shine in his new career.
O'SULLEVAN TRUST LAUNCHES 2005 CHRISTMAS CARD
The Sir Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust Christmas card was officially launched yesterday at a reception held at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London.
This year's card "The Three Winter Kings" by Sarah Aspinall is an outstanding tribute to the Irish Champions and salutes their memorable victories at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival - Hardy Eustace (Champion Hurdle), Moscow Flyer (Queen Mother Champion Chase) and Kicking King (Gold Cup).
The Christmas card is a vital ingredient of the fund raising efforts of the Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust, which is now in its ninth year.
The main fund raising activity centres around The Trust Award Lunch to be held on Wednesday, November 23, at London's Savoy Hotel, when the 450 assembly will acclaim this year's Award recipient, for a lifetime's contribution to the sport of horseracing. This year's distinguished guest speaker will be the Rt Hon Michael Howard MP, who will be followed by the spectacular auction, conducted as usual by the brilliant Nick Nugent, during which the original of "The Three Winter Kings" will be a highlight.
Last year the Trust's six chosen welfare concerns, The Blue Cross, The Brooke, Compassion in World Farming, The International League for the Protection of Horses, Racing Welfare and The Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre, each received £35,000. Whatever the outcome in 2005, the Trust will, by the year end, have distributed well over the magic £1 million mark.
The Christmas card, which as ever includes outstanding portraits of previous award winners by Johnny Jonas, is available by calling the Red Dot order Hot Line: 020 8333 1411, by Fax: 020 8761 7755, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The cards can also be personalised with your name and address or your company logo at extra cost.
Alternatively, visit the web site: www.thevoiceofracing.com.
Cards are also available from The Osborne Studio Gallery, 13 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8LB and at various racecourses in the UK and Ireland.
Sales and distribution in Ireland is being handled by Caroline Pilkington, Simonstown House, Coole, Co Westmeath. Tel: 24 hour hotline 044 61511 or email with credit card details: email@example.com.
Lots to be auctioned at The Sir Peter O'Sullevan Award Lunch on Wednesday, November 23 at The Savoy Hotel:
A prime position private box for 12, directly opposite the square, at Lords Cricket Ground, for the first day (May 11th 2006) of the Test Match between England and Sri Lanka.
Kindly donated by George Ward, Chairman of The Grunwick Group.
By kind permission of Her Majesty, a unique photo-montage by Royal Photographer Bernard Parkin, featuring The Queen at Royal Ascot 2004 and autographed pictures of 11 Royal jockeys - past and present. A serious collectors item.
Kindly gifted by Bernard Parkin.
A rare opportunity for two to visit the stables of "The Three Winter Kings". Overnight accommodation with breakfast at The Conrad in Dublin, chauffeur driven car to the stables of Tom Taaffe, Dessie Hughes and Jessica Harrington who will generously provide lunch. Your car will return you to Dublin.
Kindly donated by Ladbrokes, Hackney carriage owner-driver Terry Burke, Tom Taaffe, Dessie Hughes and Jessica Harrington.
A masterful original painting of multiple Group One winner "Mill Reef", trained by Ian Balding by Terence Gilbert.
Kindly given by the artist.
A comprehensive VIP tour for four (plus two children if required), of The National Stud with lunch with the Chairman, and two celebrity guests. Followed by an afternoon's racing on either Craven Stakes or 2000 Guineas day. Members enclosure admission, an opportunity to meet the Channel 4 racing team, plus transport to and from the course.
Generously donated by The National Stud.
A pair of outstanding portraits of this year's Award winners by the multi-talented Johnny Jonas.
Kindly donated by the artist.
A luxury trip for two to the 2006 Dubai World Cup (25th March). Business class return Emirates Flights and a 5 night stay in an Executive King Club room (including breakfast) at the breathtaking Mina A' Salam Hotel, "the gateway to Madinat Jumeirah". Also 1,000 UAE Dirhams per day per couple to spend on food and drinks within the Hotel restaurants, ground transportation, invitation to events leading up to the Dubai World Cup and VIP admission to the Dubai World Cup.
Generously donated by Godolphin.
England's Ashes hero "Freddie" Flintoff as seen by Terence Gilbert, portrayed in watercolour onto an official scorecard from the Oval Test signed by "Freddie" Flintoff.
Kindly gifted by the artist.
One of a limited edition Philip Blacker bronze, reflecting the dignity of an Egyptian owner as he waits patiently for treatment of his sick horse. Described by the distinguished sculptor as "one of my best pieces of work". It was created to mark the 70th anniversary of the Brooke.
Generously donated by The Brooke.
A very special opportunity to acquire a box for 12 guests in a superb position on Level 2 in the new Grandstand, adjacent to the Royal Box, on the first day of Royal Ascot 2006. Included in this marvellous package are 12 admission tickets and 6 car park passes, champagne reception, four course luncheon with wines, afternoon tea and a complimentary bar throughout the day. There is currently a tall three-figure waiting list for such an amenity.
Generously donated by Her Majesty's Representative at Ascot, The Duke of Devonshire, and the Ascot Authority Board.
"The Three Winter Kings" - the magical original painting by the much acclaimed Sarah Aspinall of this year's Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust Christmas card.