Lostintranslation can put down a marker for the Cheltenham Gold Cup by winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday. The ante-post betting for the race is complicated by quotes for Altior, but that horse will only run if Ascot is abandoned in which case the team will travel north. Altior is the favourite to win the Christy 1965 Chase but must beat Cyranne, the highest-rated chaser in training.
We have now embarked on the core jumps season. There is a prestigious hurdle race or chase every Saturday from now until April. The jumps meeting that matters most is the Cheltenham Festival in March. That is the highlight of the season, but there are plenty of key trials and major jumps contests over the next four months. There are two Grade 1 races this weekend.
The Betfair Chase is the third-most important chase of the season. The King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Gold Cup are the championship races in the middle and towards the end of the season respectively. However, the tracks for the three races have their own individual features. Haydock is flat and left-handed, Kempton is flat and right-handed and Cheltenham is undulating and left-handed.
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It takes a very special horse to win the three races in the same season. In fact, Kauto Star is the only horse to achieve the feat, in 2006/07. Cue Card won the first two legs in 2015/2016 but then fell four out when travelling well in the Gold Cup. The Jockey Club are offering a £1,000,000 bonus if a horse prevails in the three races this season. After Saturday’s Betfair Chase, only the winning horse can win the bonus. Lostintranslation has the potential to contend for the three prizes.
The Betfair Chase is a Grade 1 contest over three miles and one and a half furlongs with 19 fences. The race only appeared on the calendar in 2005 but quickly became established as an early-season target for the best chasers in the UK. The fences at Haydock are bigger than average, leading some trainers to criticise them for being too hard to jump. However, the race identifies contenders for the Gold Cup and so should present a stern jumping test.
Here are some betting trends for the 14-year history of the race:
• The average starting price of the winners was just under +550.
• The SPs ranged from -149.99 to +3300.
• There were six winning favourites, three at odds-on.
• One winner started at double-figure odds.
• Five winners were returned at -149.99 to +110.
The SP stats are distorted by the +3300 winner, without which the winner’s average starting price is just below +333.33. No other winner was returned at double-figure odds and eight of the successful horses in 14 years had an SP of +187.5 or lower. The Betfair Chase usually attracts a small field, so the betting market is usually uncompetitive with only a few potential winners.
The race has a history of horses prevailing more than once. Kauto Star won four Betfair Chases and three other horses are multiple winners. Kauto Star and Imperial Commander won the race and the Gold Cup. The leading trainer is Paul Nicholls, with six wins between 2006 and 2014. The leading jockey is the retired Ruby Walsh, who won the race four times from 2006 to 2012. Colin Tizzard trains Lostintranslation and prepared Cue Card for his three wins (2013, 2015 and 2016).
Lostintranslation was trading at +250 with Bet365.com at the start of the week. That price is subject to change, especially if connections withdraw Altior. The selection was one of the leading novices of last season and jumped superbly at Carlisle on his first start of the current campaign. The trainer is sweet on Lostintranslation, which has been schooling well on gallops. However, the fly in the ointment is the winner in 2017 and 2018.
Bristol De Mai, the early +175 favourite, relishes soft going around Haydock. However, the horse is more than a one-trick pony. His third place in the Gold Cup in March identifies a classy horse that has recorded a highest Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 182. Lostintranslation’s best RPR is 165, so the horse has something to find on the form.
The Betfair Chase brings together a seasoned campaigner and relatively inexperienced chaser. Frodon, Balko Des Flos and Might Bite are other possible runners that have won Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival. Potential can overcome experience and proven form this year because Lostintranslation is the tip for the 2019 Betfair Chase.