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Wednesday, November 3, 2010



A total of 19 top-class chasers are entered for the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase (3.25pm) at Haydock on Saturday, November 20, including the last three winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Kauto Star defeated Imperial Commander in a scintillating climax to last year’s Betfair Chase, and the horse that has won two Gold Cups and four King George VI Chases would be seeking a fourth victory in the three-mile showpiece, should he make the journey to Haydock Park.

Imperial Commander, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, triumphed in chasing’s Blue Riband when winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March from 2008 Gold Cup hero Denman, also trained by Nicholls. Twiston-Davies revealed at a recent stable visit that the nine-year-old will begin his season at Haydock Park in the Betfair Chase as he bids to win the three Grade One races run over three miles plus in Britain.

Among the star-studded pretenders to the Betfair Chase crown is Nacarat, who swept aside some high-class rivals to win the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday, October 30. That victory by the Tom George-trained grey went a long way to fulfilling the promise of his impressive Grade Three Racing Post Chase triumph at Kempton Park in February, 2009.

Nacarat had niggling problems last season that hampered his ascent up the ranks but George is confident that the nine-year-old is in peak condition and can be a force in Grade One company this term, with both the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase on his agenda.

The Gloucestershire trainer revealed today: “We have to see how Nacarat is before committing to the Betfair Chase but it is a possibility at this stage and the initial impression is that he couldn’t have come out of the race at Wetherby any better. The vet and the physio have both been to see him and he trotted up looking like a four-year-old this morning, not like a nine-year-old. He looks as good today as he did the day before he ran at Wetherby, which is very encouraging.

“The other side of it is that we have to see how he is over the next three weeks. Physically, he is better today than he was at any stage last year. He had a few things that needed to be put right with him but he looks great this year.

“His participation in the Betfair Chase will also depend on the ground. He goes on good to soft and soft ground, but he wouldn’t want it heavy, so we will see how he is and what the ground is like. If it comes up good ground, it would play into our hands.”

Nacarat, who was third to What A Friend in the Grade One totesport Bowl at Aintree in April, drew four lengths clear of The Tother One at Wetherby and George believes he could have won even more easily.

He said: “Nacarat made a blunder at the third-last in the Charlie Hall but the reason he made that mistake was that he quickened into it and met the fence a bit quicker than he was ready for. If he hadn’t made that mistake, he wouldn’t have come off the bridle - like when he won the Racing Post Chase.”

Kauto Star, Denman, rising star What A Friend and the top-class Noland form a formidable Nicholls-trained quartet among the entries. Noland landed the third Grade One triumph of his truncated career when last seen defeating The Listener in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in December, 2008.

Albertas Run proved himself the star turn over about two and a half miles last season with Grade One wins in the Ryanair Chase and John Smith’s Melling Chase, but Jonjo O’Neill’s charge is top-class over three miles too, having won the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2008.

Nicky Henderson has engaged the highly-regarded three-time Grade One winner Long Run, as well as Riverside Theatre, a Grade Two winner as a novice last term and impressive when winning a graduation chase at Kempton on November 1.

Cooldine could bid to become the first Irish-trained winner of the Betfair Chase for trainer Willie Mullins. The eight-year-old won the Grade One RSA Chase in 2009 and was third to the Philip Hobbs-trained Planet Of Sound on his most recent start in the Grade One Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup in April.

Lucinda Russell is considering the Betfair Chase for Silver By Nature, successful in the Grade Three Haydock Gold Cup at the course in February.

Massini’s Maguire landed the Listed United House Gold Cup at Ascot on October 30, his first start for trainer David Pipe, while the remaining entries are the Venetia Williams-trained Atouchbetweenacara, Dance Island, trained by Ben Case, the Nicky Richards-trained Skippers Brig, the mercurial but top-class Tidal Bay from the Howard Johnson yard and Ogee, who was third to fellow Grade One winner Chief Dan George in the Grade Three William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham in March.

Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin commented "That is a stunning entry.

"Imperial Commander is a confirmed runner, but to also have other recent Gold Cup winners Kauto Star and Denman entered too is great news.

"Throw in What A Friend, who Paul thinks is his most likely runner and is good value at 14-1 for the Gold Cup, and others such as Long Run and Planet Of Sound - to name but two of a host of young pretenders entered - and you have one hell of a race in prospect.

"And so there should be for such a valuable prize, and one of the three Grade One staying chases in the UK."

The Betfair Chase is the highlight of the two-day Northwest Masters, which continues at Aintree on Sunday, November 21, and is one of only three Grade One staying chases in Britain, the others being the three-mile King George VI Chase at Kempton in December and the extended three and a quarter-mile Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March

The Betfair Chase was inaugurated in 2005 when Kingscliff prevailed for trainer Robert Alner. Kauto Star has dominated the race’s short but illustrious history, winning in 2006, 2007and 2009, the other winner of the race being the Peter Bowen-trained Snoopy Loopy in 2008, who benefited when Kauto Star unseated Sam Thomas after the final fence.

Haydock’s fantastic seven-race card on November 20, also features the £75,000 Listed 40% Better Off On Betfair SP “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle (2.55pm) over three miles, as well as the £40,000 Betfair iphone & Android App Hurdle (1.50pm) over two miles for four-year-olds.

The day commences at 12.40pm with the £17,500 Coronation Street 50th Anniversary Novices’ Hurdle over two miles, while the remaining contests are also over two miles, the £25,000 Follow Paul Nicholls On Facebook And Twitter Handicap Chase (1.15pm) and the £7,000 Timeform Betfair Racing Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (3.55pm).

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