Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com and new racing radio station racingfm.com pays tribute to one of the sports greats, four time winner of Saturday’s Betfair Chase.
The Lancashire Chase, as it is registered, has fast become one of the top early season steeplechases.
Since it’s inauguration in 2005, the Betfair Chase is the first Grade One chase of the season.
In its first nine years it has been won by the legendary Kauto Star on four occasions. The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was victorious in 2006 when finishing an incredible 17 lengths in front of Irish raider Beef Or Salmon.
He followed that up with a win in the 2007 renewal, holding off a late thrust from Jonjo O’Neill’s Exotic Dancer.
The hat trick the following year was thwarted by a stumble on landing after the last.
The French-bred came storming back in 2009 as he regained his Betfair crown, to win by a nose from Imperial Commander, who went on to win in 2010, with Kauto Star missing the race.
In 2010/11, age was seemingly catching up with Kauto Star. It started well enough with a win in the Irish Champion Chase, handing out a lesson and a four-length beating to Sizing Europe.
He went on to finish poor thirds in the King George and the Gold Cup, before being pulled up in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
It was completely up in the air as to whether Kauto Star would take to the track again but, to their credit, Nicholls and Clive Smith did not rush into a decision over the summer.
Eventually it was decided that Kauto Star would return, and that his first run of 2011/12 would be at Haydock.
Nicholls was on record beforehand as saying that he’d got Kauto Star as fit as could be, and that “if Ruby’s not feeling it, I’ve told him to pull up”. It’s not as though the 2011 Betfair Chase was a soft target.
Long Run, now the pre-eminent force in the division, was sent off favourite ahead of Hennessy winner Diamond Harry, while the first two from the Charlie Hall, Weird Al and Time For Rupert, were also in the mix.
Kauto Star entered the paddock to respectful cheers from the crowd, but the same punters allowed him to go off at 6/1, reflecting what they must have felt was his irreversible slide.
Kauto Star set off in the lead, winning a brief tussle with Time For Rupert, and passed the post first time still in front. The old zest was there, the spectacular-yet-elegant jumping was there, but surely, it couldn’t happen could it?
Down the back straight, Kauto Star continually out-jumped the hapless Long Run and, although the champion and Diamond Harry were still in the picture, the crowd started to sense something special.
On entering the straight a low rumble started, gradually building as people realised just what was unfolding before their eyes.
Lasting on the bridle until two out the noise emanating from the crowd erupted as victory seemed assured for Kauto Star, sealed with an incredible leap at the last, and he found even more under pressure to see off Long Run by eight lengths.
Scenes as Kauto Star crossed the line were manic, but as he and connections entered the winners’ enclosure, the crowd united in celebration.
As far as the trends are concerned
The last eight winners...
Officially Rated 157+
No more than four runs without a win
Two or more wins on a left handed track
Seven of the last eight winners...
Officially rated 168+
French or Irish bred
Won one of their last three runs
Shortlist:Cue Card, Dynaste, Menorah, Silviniaco Conti and Tarquin Du Seuil
Six of the last eight winners...
SP up to 6/1
First three last time out
With Kauto Star being so prominent in the trends, winning four Betfair Chases, I looked at the last three races and the last nine runners to finishing in the first three. All nine were aged between six and eight (Neg. For Menorah). Eight had finished in the first 3 last time out (Neg. For Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti), while 8 had finished in the first three with running styles of ‘close up’, ‘Made all’ or ‘tracked leaders’ (Neg. for Dynaste/Menorah)
Taquin Du Seuil
Won the JLT Novices’ at the festival and came into the season with a mark of 157, beating last week’s impressive Open winner Uxizandre, this is a big ask for the young chaser. But I like his style of running and how well he travels in his races.
4½L winner of this race last year. Disappointed on seasonal bow in the Haldon Cup at Exeter.
Possible he may get taken on for the lead, not allowing him to get into his rhythm.
Second last year, classy winner of the Ryanair at the festival, second to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Bowl at Aintree.
Hasn’t stopped improving and is still very much, a horse on the up.
Winner of Betfair Chase prep race, The Charlie Hall at Wetherby, beating Tarquin Du Seuil 4L.
Having watched the gelding during his hurdles career and his current chase exploits, he never seems to run two races the same, so it is possible he may be due a stinker.
Disappointed behind Menorah in the Charlie Hall
Can’t take away his performances in winning the King George, his fine run in the Gold Cup and winning the Betfair Bowl.
Paul Nicholls described his Charlie Hall run as ‘a nice run round and a day out’ He needed the race at Haydock last year, when finishing 3rd, hopefully this time he won’t’
It may be a little early to be abandoning Silviniaco Conti.
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