JOCKEY Club Racecourses have to be commended for putting on the £1million Triple Crown bonus, which kicks off with tomorrow’s Betfair Chase at Haydock (3.00pm).
Any horse that wins the big one tomorrow, goes on to take the King George on Boxing Day and then lands the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March will receive the huge bonus.
It’s a real shame that last season’s Gold Cup hero Sizing John won’t be taking part due to the heavy ground.
His owner, Alan Potts, who sadly passed away last week, had the bonus as a big target, but Sizing John prefers a sounder surface and trainer Jessica Harrington made the decision to keep him at home.
CUE CARD came so close to landing the million two seasons ago, when taking out the first two legs before falling three out when in with every chance in the Gold Cup.
Colin Tizzard’s 11-year-old must be the most popular horse in training and he brought the house down when winning the Betfair Chase 12 months ago.
If he was to repeat that win tomorrow, he would match the achievement of Kauto Star, who landed this race for the fourth time in 2011.
The scenes at Haydock that day will never be forgotten and it will be a similar sight if Cue Card can do the business again tomorrow.
He fell at Wetherby on his seasonal debut, but he’s bounced back from plenty of setbacks in the past, while there’s an argument that three miles plus on heavy ground at Haydock are now his optimum conditions.
However, it’s hard to stay at the top for so long, he has a new jockey on board and there simply isn’t any juice in his price at 15/8 with Coral.
With only five other runners lining up, there aren’t too many options and although his price is short at around 11/8, I still can’t look past BRISTOL DE MAI.
It seems like Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey gelding has been around for ages, but remarkably he is still only six.
The son of Saddler Maker has run twice at Haydock and has won both starts by a combined 55 lengths.
Admittedly, he has disappointed a few times as well, but it’s important to remember he’s still young and this really is his Gold Cup.
It was a brilliant performance in the Peter Marsh Chase back in January and you can see Daryl Jacob winding things up from the front and powering away from his rivals.
I was also very impressed with his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby earlier this month.
All the talk after the race was about Cue Card and Coneygree, but he was a cosy winner against stable-mate Blaklion despite conceding 6lbs.
That wouldn’t have been the prime target and with ideal conditions, I’m confident he can register his third Grade One victory.
In all honesty, it looks like a battle between the top two, but there are some other talented horses in the line-up.
The one most likely to shake up the market leaders is Gordon Elliott’s OUTLANDER, who won the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal earlier this month.
He’s another who isn’t the most consistent, but on his day he’s a genuine Grade One performer and Elliott wouldn’t be sending him over if he didn’t think he had a chance.
However, there is one big stat against him as no Irish-trained horse has won this prize since it was introduced in 2005.
Tea For Two can never be ruled out, as he showed when beating Cue Card to win the Betway Bowl at Aintree in April.
He’s a very good horse on his day, but he was desperately disappointing on his reappearance in the Old Roan Chase last month and it would take a giant leap of faith to back him here.
Gary Moore has always said that Traffic Fluide wants a trip on soft ground.
He’s a talented horse, but has suffered numerous injury problems in his career and this is a tough race to try out a new trip.
The final contender, Shantou Flyer, isn’t a mile off on ratings, although he was firmly put in his place by Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall.