15:00 Haydock – Betfair Chase
In the world of sport we have witnessed very intense rivalries both past and present. The likes of Celtic v Rangers in football, Ali v Frazier in boxing and even in our beloved sport of racing we’ve had Denman v Kauto Star. This Saturday sees a very hotly anticipated rivalry that brewed from last years Cheltenham Gold Cup. Native River got the better of Might Bite back in March but just over 8 months later they are set to lock horns again. The word on the grape vine is that both runners have improved over the summer and are better than ever which makes this duel even more mouth watering.
Normally racing fans get very disheartened when you only see a handful of runners (5 in this case) line up for a major Grade 1 race but despite the two chasers that are getting all the plaudits theres a trio of other runners that demand a tonne of respect.
Clan Des Obeaux ran well at Aintree in the Betfred Bowl last time out to finish 3rd behind Might Bite so clearly deserves his spot. The likelihood is that he isn’t going to be able to revers the placings with Might Bite but what he does have over his former conqueror and also Native River is a Haydock course success. If he’s progressed over the summer he may finish closer than before.
Former World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack is seen by a handful of racing fans as the better of Colin Tizzard’s duo. After two poor performances in his last couple of starts it’s easy to forget just how good Thistlecrack really is. He racked up a run of 9 straight victories which culminated with a clear win in the 2016 King George VI Chase. If he’s put his bad recent efforts behind him he certainly, at least on paper, has the credentials to not only win but to possibly dominate a race of this nature. The down side with Thistlecrack however is that a lot is taken on trust and just how much this multiple Grade 1 champion has left is up for debate.
The horse that looks the most likely to cause an upset for the two at the head of the market has to be Bristol De Mai. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge won this race last term and from 3 runs here at Haydock already he remains unbeaten. He’s yet to finish with his head in front of either Might Bite or Native River from 3 previous attempts and although he clearly loves it here at Haydock wether or not he possesses the star ability to finally topple his main rivals is hard to see.
Although it may seem boring it’s hard to see past either Native River or Might Bite claiming victory and it’s very tricky to split the two. That being said however I have to side with the Gold Cup hero. Without being disrespectful to Nico de Boinville, who returns from recent injury, you can’t help but acknowledge that the fact Richard Johnson climbs aboard Native River is a huge plus for the 8 year old. It’s also somewhat surprising to see that Native River is younger than Might Bite as it seems Native River has been around much longer than Nicky Henderson’s runner. The rain is scheduled to fall the night before the race and if the expected down poor occurs it just makes the task easier for Collin Tizzard’s star. Might Bite is still prone to the odd jumping error and if Johnson gets his mount ahead early it’s going to be difficult for his rivals to catch the bold jumping Native River.
NATIVE RIVER (WIN)
13:50 – Cliffs Of Dover (E/W)
14:25 – First Assignment (E/W)
15:00 – Native River (WIN)
15:35 – Vintage Clouds (WIN)
14:05 – Charbel (WIN) – NAP
14:40 – We Have A Dream (WIN)
15:15 – Caid Du Lin (E/W)