The quest for a horse to win the first Betfair Million, the biggest bonus ever seen in jump racing, started with invitations to the 86 top chasers in Britain, Europe and America and then narrowed down to the seven horses who ran in the first leg - the new £150,000 Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 19.
Kingscliff under Robert Walford emerged triumphant and he now goes forward for the second leg of the Betfair Million, the Stan James King George VI Chase on Boxing Day at Sandown, for which he is currently the 5.3 (4.3/1) second favourite with Betfair and the other main contenders are 2.92 Kicking King, 8.0 Impek, 13.0 Lami, 13.5 Ollie Magern and 17.5 Cornish Rebel.
If successful then, Kingscliff, trained in Dorset by Robert Alner and owned by Arnold Sendell, has the final leg of the inaugural Betfair Million to overcome, the totesport Gold Cup at Cheltenham on March 17. The eight-year-old is 7.4 (6.4/1) with Betfair at the moment for chasing's championship race, with Kicking King at 3.95, Trabolgan at 9.0, Beef Or Salmon at 19.5 and War Of Attrition at 20.0.
Seven horses have completed the King George VI Chase/Cheltenham Gold Cup double to date. The great Cottage Rake was the first horse to achieve it in the 1948/49 season and Limber Hill mirrored the feat in 1955/56. Saffron Tartan in 1960/61 and the peerless Arkle, ridden by Pat Taaffe, also completed the famous double in 1965/66. Desert Orchid made the King George his own with four victories between 1986 and 1990, gaining the double in 1988/89. The great grey carried Simon Sherwood to a four-length win over Kildimo at Kempton Park in 1988 and the pair came up the Cheltenham hill to hold Yahoo for an emotional triumph the following March.
Best Mate overcame Marlborough in the 2002 King George and doubled-up with his second Gold Cup success in 2003 when showing his superiority with a 10-length rout of the opposition. Kicking King dominated his rivals in last year's King George VI Chase and completed the double in tremendous fashion at Cheltenham in March.
The Betfair Million has really captured the imagination of the jump racing world and Betfair co-founder Andrew Black is delighted at the massive interest the bonus has generated.
Black said: "Kingscliff was a great winner of the first Betfair Chase, beating Beef Or Salmon and Kicking King at Haydock, and we are looking forward to him running in the second leg of the Betfair Million on December 26.
"We answered racing's call for a new early-season chasing feature race with the Betfair Chase and it would be a personal thrill to sign over a million pounds if Kingscliff could achieve the realistic goal of now winning 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.
For further information, please contact: Tony Calvin, Sports and Horseracing PR Manager for Betfair
Tel: 020 8834 8223 / 07881 508 999 email@example.com
KINGSCLIFF (IRE) FACTFILE8 b g Toulon - Pixies Glen (Furry Glen)
8-11-08 Form: 11/112/24-21 Owner: Arnold Sendell
Trainer: Robert Alner Breeder: Ian Gault Jockey: Robert Walford
Kingscliff started life in point-to-points under the care of Louise and Sally Alner and was unbeaten in two starts at Badbury Rings and Larkhill in February and March, 2002. He won on his hunter chase debut at Wincanton in February, 2003, easily defeating Family Business by 30 lengths, and then qualified to run at Cheltenham by winning a point-to-point at Milborne St Andrew the same month. In the Christie's Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2003, he came home ahead of 23 opponents to land the prize by two and a half lengths, putting up another imposing performance for the Alners. The 2003/04 season saw Kingscliff officially transferred to the yard of Robert Alner. He made an extraordinary winning debut in handicap company at Ascot in November, 2003. Despite rider Andrew Thornton being hindered by a broken left reign after jumping the third fence, Kingscliff overwhelmed a seven-runner field to win by 17 lengths. Another comfortable victory followed on his next start in December, 2003, when he defeated six opponents at Cheltenham over an extended three miles and one furlong trip. Widely expected to maintain his unbeaten record in Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase in January 2004, Kingscliff finished second to Arctic Jack, beaten around 13 lengths, although he was later found to have muscular problems. That delayed his next start until December, 2004, when he ran a fantastic comeback race to be second to Kicking King in the Grade One King George VI Chase at Kempton, staying on with purpose and only going down by two and a half lengths. The performance at Kempton led many to see Kingscliff as a live Cheltenham Gold Cup contender but, after working poorly at home in his preparations for the big race, he was taken out of the contest. He recovered to run at the Punchestown Festival in April, 2005, but proved most disappointing when fourth in the Guinness Gold Cup, being well beaten by Kicking King. The new season saw Kingscliff right back to form, finishing a close second to Ollie Magern in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 29, staying on well to be beaten a length and a quarter. He produced his best-ever performance to win the inaugural £150,000 Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 19, giving an exhibition round of jumping and staying on best of all to defeat Beef Or Salmon by a length and a quarter. He is now being aimed at the King George VI Chase at Sandown on Boxing Day, the second leg of the Betfair Million.
Race Record: Starts: 9; 1st: 5; 2nd: 3; 3rd: -; Win & Place Prize Money: £227,881
A retired electrical engineer from North Petherton, Somerset, Sendell has been involved with horseracing, primarily point-to-pointing, for over 30 years, since he finished playing rugby. His rugby career saw him turn out for North Petherton firsts before refereeing for Somerset RFU. A keen sportsman, he also raced pigeons and owned greyhounds, including good staying bitch Little Lovely, a Wembley rival of the famous Westpark Mustard. His mentor in the horseracing world was Tim Handel (who died five years ago), who combined permit training with a butcher's business and advised Sendell on the buying of young horses. Sendell purchased Kingscliff as a three-year-old store from Irish horse dealer Martin Cullinane for an amount he describes as "peanuts". Following the horse's two point-to-point victories at Badbury Rings and Larkhill, Sendell reportedly turned down an offer for Kingscliff of 500,000 Euros and put £100 on the horse at 100/1 to win the Foxhunter Chase at the 2003 Cheltenham Festival. The Toulon gelding's victory at Cheltenham not only won Sendell his wager, but also helped fulfill a lifetime's ambition. Sendell has also been the West of England chrysanthemum growing and showing champion.
Born on November 21, 1943, the son of a farmer who also kept some point-to-pointers, Robert Alner was a leading amateur rider with 212 point-to-point wins, his first being Heart Of Oak in 1961, and became champion point-to-point rider in 1992. He also had 53 winners under Rules, of which the best was the 1970 National Hunt Chase victor Domason and, having held a permit since 1978, he took out a full training licence in 1993. In 1997 Alner saddled the first two horses home in the Whitbread Gold Cup (now the Betfred Gold Cup) with Harwell Lad and Flyer's Nap, and his most important win to date came when the 25/1 chance Cool Dawn won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998. He has also saddled Sir Rembrandt to be placed in the Gold Cup for the past two seasons, finishing second to Best Mate in 2004, and third behind Kicking King in March. The trainer has won other races at the Cheltenham Festival with Flyer's Nap (1995 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup and 1997 National Hunt Chase), Honey Mount (2000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup) and Kingscliff (2003 Christie's Foxhunter Chase), plus big race prizes with Super Tactics (1998 Racing Post Chase) and Kates Charm (2000 Ascot Hurdle and 2002 Cleeve Hurdle). Other useful performers trained include Hops and Pops, Dextra Dove and Bishop's Hall. This season Alner took the inaugural running of the Betfair Chase at Haydock with Kingscliff, the first leg of the Betfair Million that offers a £1 million bonus to any horse that can capture the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup. He has a team of around 50 horses in training at the hamlet of Droop in Dorset.
Yorkshire born and bred, Walford, 25, began riding with the Middleton pony club before graduating to the point-to-point circuit, taking his first ride between the flags in 1998. His mother Gillian was a winning point-to-point rider, as was his father Tim who also trains a string of pointers and hunter chasers. He joined Dorset trainer Robert Alner as an amateur in September, 1999, and partnered the trainer's Honey Mount to success in the 2000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, his first ride at the course. Walford turned professional in December, 2001, and rode out his claim in May, 2005. His profile received a boost when Alner announced in October that the rider will partner Kingscliff throughout the coming season. His biggest success came on Kingscliff in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, giving the horse a great ride to score by a length and a quarter from Beef Or Salmon, with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King a further nine lengths back in third.
FAVOURITES RACING'S JOLLY BOY GOES FOR 5th WIN IN 18 DAYS AT WINDSOR!
Venetia Williams has had her string in fantastic form in the last few weeks and no horse has illustrated that fact better than Jolly Boy, whose owners include golf legend Laura Davies. The six year old gelding, owned by syndicate operators Favourites Racing, was a maiden until November 29, but got off the mark with a facile success in a novice handicap chase at Hereford and has subsequently added chase victories at Fontwell, Huntingdon and Plumpton.
Jolly Boy goes for his fifth win in less than three weeks in the 1.30pm at Windsor on Friday, a two-mile novices' handicap chase, for which he looks certain to start favourite.
Andy Clifton, Managing Director of Favourites Racing said: "It has been a fantastic few weeks for us and we're very hopeful that Jolly Boy can give us our 20th win of 2005 at Windsor."
Laura Davies added: "As someone who follows racing closely whenever I get the chance, I feel so lucky to be involved in a horse like this. I'm grateful to Favourites for giving me the chance to become a winning owner - especially as my other horse Kova Hall picked up a race on the flat this year and is now going hurdling with Philip Hobbs!"