Daily columnist Steve Ryder has a look ahead to the upcoming Jumps season and has four antepost selections to keep an eye on throughout the season.
The Betfair Chase, ran this year on Saturday 20th November, is a Grade 1 Chase ran at Haydock over 3m 1½ furlongs and is often the starting point for the star staying chasers. The race is well known for multiple winners with Kauto Star (4), Silviniaco Conti (2) and Cue Card (3) all winning the race more than once and I feel Bristol De Mai can equal Kauto Star’s record of four wins in the race.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained grey won this race in 2017, 2018 and last year as well as finishing 2nd in 2019 behind Lostintranslation. He has a fantastic record at Haydock with form figures of 111121 and also proved in 2018 that he isn’t reliant on heavy ground to show his best as he beat Native River by four lengths that year.
Bookmakers currently have A Plus Tard as the antepost favourite for the race but it is worth remembering that he has been beaten at odds of 5/4 and 1/2 on his reappearance run the last two seasons. Connections main target will be later in the season, however, Nigel Twiston-Davies will make sure that Bristol De Mai will be spot on for this race and I expect the now ten-year-old grey to win this race for a fourth time.
King George VI Chase
The King George VI Chase, ran on Boxing Day at Kempton over 3 miles, is often regarded as a ‘Gold Cup Trial’ but I feel a specific set of attributes are needed in order to win the race. It looks a good race to get involved with antepost as there are always lots of Irish horses towards the top of the market who very rarely turn up. Footpad and Vautour are the only Irish trained horses who have placed in the last decade but the likes of Allaho, Minella Indo, Fakir D’Oudaries and Envoi Allen are all towards the top of the market this year.
Clan Des Obeaux currently heads the market and I feel he is a worthy favourite at 7/2. The Paul Nicholls trained gelding won the race in 2018 and 2019 before finishing 3rd behind stablemate Frodon last year. His season had beginning to look like it may become disappointing following a defeat at Newbury in the Denman Chase but he put in an impressive performance at Aintree in the Betway Bowl winning by 26 lengths in first time cheekpieces. He proved that was no fluke by defeating the Irish at Punchestown showing an improved attitude at the finish to defeat dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo. Trainer Paul Nicholls has won this race a record 12 times and he has confirmed that Clan Des Obeaux will come straight to this race rather than having a hard race in the Betfair Chase and therefore I recommend backing him now before his potential rivals start dropping out.
While looking through the betting for this race, Shan Blue caught my eye at 33/1 and I would recommend having a saver on him each way. The Dan Skelton trained seven-year-old made the perfect start over fences last season with easy victories at Wetherby over 2m4f and 3 miles before winning the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over the same course and distance as this race last year in impressive style. He wasn’t seen at his best dropped back down to 2m4f at Sandown and Cheltenham before racing too keenly upped to 3m1f at Aintree at the end of a long season. I expect Shan Blue to win the Charlie Hall Chase on his reappearance at the weekend and if that is the case then he will be one of the leading contenders in the King George Chase on a flat track which will suit.
National Hunt Chase
Gordon Elliott has a good record in the National Hunt Chase and I feel that The Bosses Oscar has a fascinating profile for the race this year. He was a huge eyecatcher when a staying on 5th in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle in 2020 before finishing 2nd in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at the Festival last season. The six-year-old has been beaten twice over fences so far this season but has jumped particularly well in those contests which have been run over a distance shorter than ideal. He still needs to qualify for the race as horses now have to finish in the first four in a chase ran over two miles and seven a half furlongs or further but I am sure Gordon Elliott will have a target in mind and he looks overpriced at 25/1 given his previous festival form.