Gold Cup Rematch Puts Shine on Betfair Chase
Native River and Might Bite, the pair who delivered one of the most thrilling Cheltenham Gold Cup duels in recent years, are on course to contest the Betfair Chase at Haydock (24th November, 3pm). Neither horse has been seen since last spring, with Might Bite’s last outing a strong showing in the Aintree Bowl Chase and Native River last seen crossing the line for that stunning Gold Cup win. Big expectations surround the pair this season, especially Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite who tops the early odds for the King George VI Chase and the Gold Cup.
It might surprise some to learn that neither horses are favourite in the race, with that honour going to Haydock specialist Bristol de Mai. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ gelding has raced three times at Haydock, winning all three by an impressive distance of 37 lengths on average. That included a stunning 57-length win over Cue Card in this race last year. That victory propelled Bristol de Mai into the reckoning for the King George, but he disappointed in finishing sixth, well behind winner Might Bite. After that, Bristol de Mai had a decent, if not spectacular, spring, finishing runner-up to Might Bite at Aintree and a third place at Cheltenham.
Bristol de Mai favourite
The bookies seem to like that spell Bristol de Mai has over Haydock, with several major outlets going 9/4 that he takes the race for the second year in a row. The best odds available on Twiston-Davies’ grey seem to be the 5/2 offered by 888sport. The ground could certainly play a factor though, with Bristol de Mai seemingly enjoying the slog of heavy ground. Certainly, it didn’t seem to faze him at all at Haydock last November.
888sport have installed Might Bite as the 3/1 second-favourite and Native River right on his shoulder at 10/3. It makes for an intriguing trio at the top of the odds, and, in fairness, you could make a strong case for each. Native River has been cited as “bigger and stronger” this season by Twiston-Davies, a trainer who wouldn’t make such claims if they were unwarranted. It is worth noting that Henderson has suggested heavy ground will likely pull Might Bite from the race, so keep an eye on the weather.
Thistlecrack interesting candidate
After the top three, there is a significant gap to some of the other contenders, yet some decent quality remains in the field. Politologue, who had that big win in the Melling Chase in April, is given odds of 10/1. Others include: Thistlecrack, Clan des Obeaux and Shattered Love all at 14/1, with Disko and Don Poli given odds of 16/1 and 25/1 respectively.
Of those other contenders, Thistlecrack is arguably the most intriguing. The 2016 Horse of the Year seems to have never really got his mojo back after injury put an end to the stunning form of 2015 and 2016. There are murmurings that Colin Tizzard has got him back into somewhere near his best, and that ‘best’ was very good indeed so best to keep an eye on things there.
Weather permitting, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic race at Haydock: A Gold Cup rivalry renewed, a course and race specialist in Bristol de Mai and a horse, like Thistlecrack, who has the potential x-factor to upset the odds and make a claim to be one of the best again. It might be the race where we really feel the new national hunt season has begun in earnest.