The Betfair Chase (3.05pm, Haydock, Saturday) is one of just four Grade 1 staying chases run during the National Hunt season. This year’s small but very select renewal has attracted the second and third in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup: The Giant Bolster and Long Run respectively.
Much of the interest in this year’s race revolves around Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old Long Run (11/8), who many considered disappointing last season, despite finishing second to Kauto Star in this race and runner-up in the King George VI Chase. He was then third to the ill-fated Synchronized in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In fact, Long Run now has an official BHA rating 1lb lower than when winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011, so he has one or two questions to answer.
Nevertheless, Long Run is still rated 10lb superior to his nearest rival in this race and, although his jumping ability was called into question on more than one occasion last season, he has never fallen. He is yet to finish out of the first three in 22 career starts over hurdles and fences. He has been off the course since Cheltenham but his amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen has typically made all the right positive noises ahead of this test.
Long Run’s nearest rival, both in terms of official BHA ratings and the betting market, is Paul Nicholls’ progressive six-year-old Silviniaco Conti (9/4). The son of Dom Alco has yet to win a Grade 1 race over hurdles or fences, but was an impressive 11-length winner of the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago. That form entitles him, once again, to beat Hilary Parrot’s eight-year-old Wayward Prince (33/1) and he looks a potent threat, despite not being favoured by the race conditions.
David Bridgwater’s seven-year-old The Giant Bolster (7/1) surprised many pundits when he finished three-quarters of a length in front of Long Run, at level weights, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Previously he had been 11½ lengths behind him, in receipt of 4lb, in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February.
The Giant Bolster started at 50/1 for the Gold Cup, so the form seems to suggest that Long Run ran below par, rather than that The Giant Bolster found significant improvement within the space of a month.
One horse that definitely ran below par in the Gold Cup was Donald McCain’s nine-year-old Weird Al (6/1), who was eventually pulled up before four out with a broken blood vessel. He subsequently fell at the fourth last, when still in with a chance, in the Grand National, so doesn’t have the most attractive form figures.
Nevertheless, he has just two lengths to find with Long Run on their running in this race last year, despite being rated 14lb inferior officially. Notably he won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance last October and may be best caught fresh. He apparently missed an intended engagement in the Charlie Hall Chase this time around to give him more time.
Long Run and Silviniaco Conti are the two obvious ones, but neither appears particularly good value at the odds on offer. As a result, our advice is to bet on WEIRD AL at 6/1 with Bet365, Ladbrokes, Blue Square and most other bookies for the Betfair Chase. He goes well fresh, has plenty of form on soft ground and has always promised to be a really good horse.