After the downpour and gloom of yesterday which left the majority of racegoers who braved the elements as opposed to the ones who stayed in the warmth of bars extremely cold and damp, so much that my beloved tweed overcoat still had water in it and had a scent that the hounds of the Cheshire Hunt would love to follow it was the big day of this two day festival in this area of Lancashire.
Now in it’s tenth year the Betfair Chase is firmly in the list of jumping fans favourite races, Something always happens and it’s as much a battle of the emotions as it is for the horses over the 3m and 18 fence trip.
Today’s race was complemented by some top handicaps and a new conditions hurdle which brought out potential Champion Hurdle hopes for the spring.
Seven races and a bumper crowd for one of the big days outside of the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.
12.10 Feel The Rush At Betfair Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m,9 flights,3yo+ (0-135)
A good contest to open proceedings here which was taken by the Nicky Henderson trained and Barry Geraghty ridden Vasco Du Ronceray who was last seen sighted at Hexham, he travelled well and did enough to keep De Boitron at bay by five lengths, Zafarangar was third.
This was his first win since 2012 at much missed Hereford,only 5 this was his thirteenth start,Going in off 135 he is more effective back at 2m.
De Boitron is more knows as a chaser,this run will have done him the power of good.
12.45 Betfair Home Of Price Rush Handicap Chase,Class 3,3m5f,22 fences,4yo+ (0-135)
A real slog here as nine set off but only three completed the course.
The Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson combination kept their form up with Gas Line Boy who made most and took this with consummate ease to such an extent he was eased down towards the finish, Coming in off the back of a last time victory at Exeter he found the extra trip no trouble at all and the Welsh National was under consideration when Philip Hobbs was asked.
Emperor’s Choice was the eventual runner up,he also filled that spot here in February’s National Trial over the same course and distance,he will be better when the ground is borderline unraceable.
The only other horse to finish was No Duffer who was so far back they needed to send out a search party.
Sixty Something was in the process of running a good race until tumbling at the fourteenth fence.
1.15 Better Odds With Betfair Price Rush Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,2m4f,4yo+
Won last year by eventual World Hurdle winner More Of That this renewal had plenty in with lots of scope and improvement.
Yesyoucan took the pace along from flag fall until being headed by the peloton when they turned for home and about four or five all held chances as the number of flights to the finish slowly got lowered.
In the end it was a win for Wales as the Evan Williams trained and Paul Moloney ridden On Tour continued his upward curve following his recent wins at Newton Abbott and Stratford to fight off the challenge from top mare Run Ructions Run, Favourite Morito Du Berlais was one paced back in third and Dawalan rallied through beaten horses for fourth.
On Tour certainly has a bit of class about him and will probably get further in time,Going in off 131 he could end up around 140 after being reassessed.
Run Ructions Run is a classy mare and will no doubt end up being aimed at the Mares Hurdle in March, Morito Du Berlais will benefit going up in trip.
1.50 Betfair Price Rush Hurdle,Class 2,2m,8 flights,4yo+
A new race which replaced the 4yo only hurdle and also run on the flat track to keep the ground fresh.
£46950 to the winner here and it was only going to one horse, The New One who easily brushed aside long time pace setter Zamdy Man.
To be honest the win told very little only that he is ticking over nicely before next months Bula or Christmas Hurdle.
Zamdy Man set a good early pace and did need the fizz taking out of him early but he ran an honest race in defeat, He clearly loves Haydock so January’s Champion Hurdle trial would be ideal for him although something like the Scottish one would be better.
Melodic Rendezvous was a bit disappointing in third and didn’t pick up,he will strip fitter for the run, William’s Wishes and Hawk High were outclassed but will be better back in their own class of company.
2.25 Betfair ‘This Is Play’ “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle,Grade 3,3m,12 flights,4yo+
Hayley Turner rode her first ever Group race here in the Lancashire Oaks a few years ago and this afternoon Lizzie Kelly (7) became the first ever female rider in this country to win a Graded race over jumps as the 5yo Aubusson made a rare appearance away from Cheltenham and Chepstow to take this valuable prize by making all the running and just had enough in hand to hold off from the staying on Cesarewitch winner Big Easy.
Dara Tango from Tony Martin’s stable looked to have been laid out for this following last months flat run at Catterick, he could only finish third while favourite,the well regarded Volnay De Thaix travelled well but couldn’t find any extra when asked, he was top weight but his future will be over fences and last weeks Cheltenham victor Katkeau probably found this race had come to soon after last week.
One For Harry who was always in the front end for Nicky Richards and Brian Harding took a crashing fall at the fourth last with about six furlongs to go,he was going ok and better days will lie ahead for him.
This was a top piece of riding for Lizzie Kelly who has a great relationship with this horse, You would think the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Rendelsham here on February would be ideal races next and for the stable of Nick Williams,they had Diamond Harry in this a few years back when he cruised in under top weight, Aubusson is a horse going places.
3.00 Betfair Chase,Grade 1,3m1f,18 fences,5yo+
Registered as the Lancashire Chase this was a real high quality renewal of a race rich in history for such a young age.
Silviniaco Conti bounced right back after his run in last months Charlie Hall when he found nothing coming down the straight.
As expected Cue Card who won last year took them along but always had company so he couldn’t boss the field about as he did last year.
Going out into the country on the last circuit, Conti was right in Cue Card’s wing mirror view and served it upto him on the five fences down the back which forced into a few errors.
Turning for home Conti took over as Dynaste and Menorah tracked them, Conti began to pull away as Menorah went with him,both were in full fighting mode as they battled over the fences but Conti dug deep and found extra and held on at the line as Menorah rallied to within two lengths in defeat.
Dynaste was third,he couldn’t do anything to catch them and ran an honest race,Cue Card came fourth in the end, He was simply beaten by the better horses on the day,come King George day he will be in their fighting.
Taquin Du Seuil who was supported here was pulled up at the end of the back straight,He can be forgiven this run and will be better back at 2m4f I think.
As for Silviniaco Conti the next stop will be Kempton, he clearly doesn’t like Cheltenham so Aintree and Punchestown would be the better targets for him,It’s hard for any staying chaser from Paul Nicholls’ stable because inevitably they will be compared to Kauto Star, He is a class act in his own right and deserves the plaudits on merit.
3.35 Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively On Betfair Handicap Chase,Class 2,3m1f,18 fences,4yo+ (0-145)
A good prize but full of out of form chasers with a few possibly using this race as a nice trial for next months Becher Chase at Aintree.
According To Treve got no further than fence one in the now controversial Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton gained compensation under Tom Cannon to get the better of Renard by 1.5 lengths, Midnight Appeal was back in third spot.
Now under the care of David Bridgwater this winner is enjoying life at his new home who is finding plenty of improvement with him, The nice big three mile handicaps will be ideal for now, maybe the Great Yorkshire or Peter Marsh Chases will be targets as the season progresses.
Two days of top class jumps action comes to an end then.
It’s fair to say this meeting is coming along nicely in terms of quality of racing and it’s place in the calendar is firmly in many peoples diaries.
As usual the Betfair Chase proved to be a real humdinger of a race, Silviniaco Conti showed his affection for the North West again with today’s win, he is firmly in the list of Haydock favourites.
Until the next event which will be in the hands of the elements may I bid you a fond farewell.