A superb field of seven lines up for the 12th renewal of the £209,000 Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 19, day two of the Betfair Chase Weekend.
Cue Card (Colin Tizzard/Paddy Brennan) has won the three-mile contest for two of the past three seasons, scoring by four and a half lengths from Dynaste in 2013 and defeating Silviniaco Conti (Paul Nicholls/Noel Fehily) by seven lengths 12 months ago.
The 10-year-old heads the market with Betfair, having finished third on his seasonal reappearance behind Irish Cavalier (Rebecca Curtis/Jonathan Moore) and Menorah (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson) in the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on 29th October.
Silviniaco Conti was successful in the 2012 and 2014 renewals of the Betfair Chase and comes into Saturday’s race on the back of his second in the G1 JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on 5th November.
Seeyouatmidnight (Sandy Thomson/Brian Hughes) is the potential improver after an easy 12-length success over Grade One winner Bristol De Mai in the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on 30th October.
The eight-year-old won three novice chases on the bounce last season, including a dour front-running success over subsequent RSA Chase victor Blaklion in a G2 contest at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. He disappointed behind that rival on quicker going at the Cheltenham Festival in March, finishing seventh.
Seeyouatmidnight boasts good form on testing ground at Haydock Park, having captured the G2 Rendlesham Hurdle as a novice at the course in 2014.
Trainer Sandy Thomson said: “I have been absolutely delighted with Seeyouatmidnight.
“Everything has gone to plan and it looks like he is going to get his ground.
“It is good race with the top three in there and, as Colin Tizzard said, Coneygree is going to give us all a tow. That doesn’t worry me as Brian will sit and travel wherever he wants.
“Saturday is going to tell us whether or not we are a Grade One horse or a National type horse.
“Nobody can tells us either way at the moment. I would say that I don’t think he was right at the Cheltenham Festival.
“Before that, he had beaten the RSA Chase winner, who ran well enough in the Charlie Hall, and then this season he beat the JLT runner-up at Carlisle over his preferred distance.
“Seeyouatmidnight has got to step up, but he has bits of form that suggest it is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially on testing ground.”
Saturday’s great contest also sees the return to action of the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree (Mark Bradstock/Aidan Coleman). Coneygree is unbeaten in five starts over fences and will be making his first appearance since winning an intermediate chase at Sandown Park just over a year ago. Aidan Coleman partners Coneygree for the first time as regular rider Nico de Boinville is on the sidelines with injury.
Completing the field is French-trained outsider Vezelay (Emmanuel Clayeux/Felix De Giles), a Grade Two winner at Auteuil who finished third in last season’s Grade One Prix La Haye Jousselin at the same venue. The seven-year-old is making his British debut.
Betfair spokesman Barry Orr commented: “Between them, Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti have won the last four runnings of the Betfair Chase. In fact, the last horse other than the aforementioned to win the race was the incomparable Kauto Star (pictured) in 2011.
“Coneygree, like Kauto Star another returning former Gold Cup winner, has the artillery but the market just marginally prefers Cue Card at present.
“Having said that, given how much he captured the public’s imagination in his novice season, I think Coneygree’s price will contract and it is conceivable he may challenge Cue Card for favouritism on the day.”