We enter a rich period for racing.
Saturday’s Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock will be followed by the Troytown Handicap Chase on Sunday at Navan.
The following Saturday, December 1st, will see the race formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup (now the Ladbrokes Gold Cup) run at Newbury and the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle staged at Newcastle.
Then, on Sunday December 2nd, Fairyhouse will stage day two of its valuable weekend Winter Festival fixture.
We unashamedly take delight in repeating that Sunday at Fairyhouse is baroneracing.com’s big day. We sponsor six races on the seven-race card – Meath GAA have been sponsoring the card’s bumper for a few years now – and these include the card’s three Grade 1 contests, which all carry the baroneracing.com name – the €90,000 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, the €90,000 Drinmore Novice Chase and the €125,000 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
It promises to be a day to savour, one that will carry, in total, over €700,000 in prize-money.
But back to this Saturday and Haydock.
The Betfair Chase, which is registered as the Lancashire Chase, is the first Grade 1 contest to be staged during the British jumping season.
Trainers Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard have won the race nine times between them, Nicholls’ winners being the great Kauto Star (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011) and Silviniaco Conti (2012 and 2014), with Tizzard securing success with Cue Card in 2013, 2015 and 2016. It is a race that Ireland has yet to win.
Nicholls could be represented by Clan des Obeaux and Politologue on Saturday and Tizzard by last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Native River, and the previous season’s King George VI Chase winner, Thistlecrack.
The reigning King George champ, and runner-up to Native River at Cheltenham, Might Bite, could also line up on Merseyside on Saturday in a race that trainer Nicky Henderson has yet to win.
— Nicky Henderson (@sevenbarrows) November 19, 2018
Ireland could be represented by any of Gordon Elliott’s three entries, Don Poli, Outlander and Shattered Love.
Last year’s winner, Bristol de Mai, could also run. If so, it will be just his second race since having a wind operation. His trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, also won the race in 2010 with Imperial Commander, one of three wins for jockey Paddy Brennan in the contest – he rode Cue Card to victory in 2015 and 2016.
With £501,800 in prize-money on offer at Haydock, a high-class and competitive card looks assured.
All in all, it promises to be a superb card with an excellent centrepiece,
As with all racing fans, though, we are keeping a close eye on the weather. A good bit of rain would be very welcome across the racecourses of Britain and Ireland right now.