Betfair Chase Ante-Post Preview: Santini offers the value

Santini was second in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Santini was second in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Following the release of the entries for the Betfair Chase, Nick Seddon takes an early look at the Grade 1 contest, and picks out his best bet at this stage…

Traditionally the first Grade 1 event of the British Jumps season, the Betfair Chase regularly attracts a stellar field, and this year’s renewal looks an excellent one, with no less than seven top level winners amongst the 10-strong list of entries. 

Although it’s the first leg of the Jumps Triple Crown (alongside the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup), you have to go back to 2006 and Kauto Star to find the last Betfair Chase winner who went on to win the Gold Cup the following March, and it's worth noting that Haydock’s stiff fences generally require something of specialist. 

Indeed, there have been four multiple winners of this race since its inception in 2005, and last year’s winner Lostintranslation will be hoping to add his name to that list. A Grade 1-winning novice in 2018/19, Lostintranslation was ear-marked as a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender last term, and he certainly looked set to take his place at the top of the division when winning this 12 months ago, dethroning the dual winner Bristol De Mai in the process - who was unbeaten in four starts at Haydock prior to that. 

Admittedly, his season didn’t really go to plan after that success, and he disappointed in the following month’s King George at Kempton, when looking uncomfortable throughout before eventually being pulled-up. However, there were plenty of positives to take from his excellent effort to finish third on his next start in the Gold Cup, which came during a sticky run of form for the yard. Still only eight, it would be folly to write him off just yet, and he deserves another chance to prove himself as a leading light in the division this term. He clearly acts well at Haydock, though he's a relatively skinny 2/1 favourite at the time of writing, and is passed over at the prices in what looks likely to be a stronger renewal than 12 months ago. 

The second favourite at the time of writing is the aforementioned Bristol De Mai, who won this in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018. A top-class performer on his day, he generally saves his best form for Haydock, and has an excellent record at the track, winning four of his five outings. The majority of those wins have come in emphatic fashion, too, and he’d be difficult to beat if reproducing the kind of form that saw him win the 2017 renewal by a breathtaking 57 lengths. He’s seen to best effect when there’s plenty of juice in the ground, and would be an appealing prospect if it became particularly testing at Haydock on the day, but he was beaten fair and square in last year’s renewal, and offers little value at around the 5/2 mark to overturn that form with Lostintranslation. 

Several of those entered will have eyes on the Triple Crown, including the dual King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux. He’s a top-class performer on his day, as he’s shown over the past two seasons at Kempton, though it’s worth noting that he’s needed his reappearance run in each of the last four seasons, including when fourth here in 2017. He’d have strong claims if reproducing his best form, but three miles seems to be the limit of his stamina, and he’d be vulnerable if this turned into a stern test.

One who is laden with stamina is Santini, who was a neck behind Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup in March. He’s very lightly-raced for an eight-year-old, but he’s shown some high-class form when making the track, and took the scalp of Bristol De Mai when winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January. He’s run well fresh in the past, and ought to be able to handle any conditions that Haydock throws at him. Admittedly, Santini doesn’t always convince with his jumping, but this kind of scenario appeals as one that will play to his strengths, and at a slightly bigger price than his two main market rivals, he looks worth siding with at around the 7/2 mark.

Three more to consider are A Plus Tard, Bellshill and Topofthegame - each of whom are winners at the highest level. The last-named defeated Santini to win the 2019 RSA Chase, and although he'd be one to seriously consider if lining up, he'd be best watched on the back of a 596-day absence, and an engagement in the Ladbrokes Trophy seems more likely. Meanwhile, Bellshill won the Irish Gold Cup in February 2019, and is due to have his first start for Sandy Thomson since changing hands.

He's tended to be more miss than hit during his career, but is capable of high-class form on his day, and still only a ten-year-old, he can't be completely discounted here - for all that he'll likely need the run. Finally, A Plus Tard certainly deserves to line up based on his best form, though he seemed to have his stamina stretched on his only outing over this trip in 2019, and would have plenty to prove here. 

The field is completed by Saint Calvados, Keeper Hill and Lord Du Mesnil. The last-named was one of the most progressive staying chasers in training last year, winning two valuable races here and improving 38 lb in the handicap. He won't be found wanting for stamina, but would need to improve considerably once again for win purposes, a comment which also applies to Keeper Hill, who was well held in last month's Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. Lastly, Saint Calvados was an excellent second when last seen in the Ryanair Chase in March, but he's untried over further than two and a half miles, and doesn't appeal as an obvious stayer here. With that in mind, it is Santini who makes the most appeal at the prices at present.

Selection

Betfair Chase, Haydock, Saturday 21st November - back Santini at 7/2

Betfair Chase
Santini silk

Santini

Non-Runner
2021 Cheltenham Festival
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