Mike Norman talks us through the Betfair Chase Serial Winners
Kauto the greatest Star of his era
Card was very much on Cue in the Betfair Chase
Haydock or bust for Bristol De Mai
In its relatively short existence - 18-years to be precise - the Betfair Chase at Haydock has quickly established itself as the premier early-season target for the cream of Britain's 3m chasers.
A Grade 1 contest in its own right, with a purse of £200,000 added prize money, the Betfair Chase is the ideal race for horses expected to play leading roles in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in mid-March.
However, take a quick glance at the race's portfolio of previous winners and it's easy to spot a common theme; that the Betfair Chase is made for Serial Winners.
No fewer than four horses have won the race on at least two occasions, a trio of those have won it at least three times, and the legendary Kauto Star has four Betfair Chase titles to his name.
But what is remarkable about these multiple winners of the race is that none of them won their multiple crowns in one consecutive period, they all lost their title one year before returning to Haydock in another year to regain their Betfair Chase crown. The true mark of a Serial Winner.
First Win: 2006
Also Won: 2007
Regained Crown: 2009, 2011
By the time the 2006 renewal of the Betfair Chase came around, Kauto Star was already regarded as a potential star having won the Grade 1 Tingle Creek the previous year and being sent off favourite to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham eight months earlier.
Although trying the trip - 2m7f that year - for the first time, punters had no doubt who they wanted to side with, sending Paul Nicholls' 6yo off as the strong 11/102.11 favourite to beat a field that included the first and second from the previous year's Betfair Chase, Kingscliff and Beef Or Salmon.
What Kauto Star would display during the six minutes of racing was to be the hallmark of his career as a Serial Winner; at his best, simply unbeatable.
He destroyed his rivals, pulling 17 lengths clear of Beef Or Salmon with his jockey, Ruby Walsh, declaring, "That was every bit as easy as it looked. He is flipping special, isn't he?"
After defending his title in 2007, Kauto Star looked set to complete the Betfair Chase hat-trick in 2008, but a stumble and eventual unseat just after the last put paid to his hopes and meant his crown was lost.
However, after winning his third King George and memorably defeating stablemate Denman to win his second Cheltenham Gold Cup, Katuo Star returned to Haydock to become the first horse to regain a Betfair Chase crown, beating Imperial Commander in 2009 for his third win in the race.
But the Kauto Star/Betfair Chase story doesn't end there. After sidestepping the 2010 renewal, Kauto would go on to taste defeat in his three races prior to going back to attempt to win a fourth Betfair Chase.
Just weeks away from turning 12yo, and with just one victory to his name in almost two years, some had even questioned Nicholls' decision to give Kauto another season. No-one wanted to see the legend of National Hunt racing plod around and finish down the field.
Not for the first time though Kauto Star silenced his doubters.
Sent off at a barely believable 6/17.00, Kauto led from pillar to post, demonstrating all the traits of why he became a Serial Winner, fending off all challengers and turning a one-length lead at the last to an eight-length victory at the line.
It was a stunning performance from a remarkable champion, and it would be his last appearance in the race before retirement four months later, with his roll call of career wins - among others - reading five King George VI victories, four Betfair Chase titles and two Cheltenham Gold cup wins.
In Britain, Kauto Star won 19 of his 26 completed starts including a quite remarkable 16 Grade 1 victories. There can surely be no better equine candidate to be classed as a Betfair Serial Winner.
First Win: 2013
Regained Crown: 2015
Also Won: 2016
A stunning winner of the 2010 Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, Cue Card failed to hit the heights as a hurdler but soon made his mark as a top class middle distance Chaser.
Following victory in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, Colin Tizzard's 7yo made his first appearance in a Betfair Chase in 2013 as a relative 9/110.00 outsider in a field featuring multiple Grade 1 winners.
But come the end of the race, it was Cue Card who emerged as one of the stars of his generation, comfortably beating Dynaste by over four lengths with 2012 Betfair Chase winner Silviniaco Conti and Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Long Run and Bobs Worth trailing in his wake.
Wind problems plagued Cue Card for much of the following 18 months, meaning defeat in the 2014 renewal, a race in which Silviniaco Conti became only the second horse to regain a Betfair Chase crown.
In the summer of 2015 a wind operation was performed on Cue Card in the hope that it would help him regain his best form. Not only did it do that, it took the now 9yo to a new level.
In one of his best career wins, Cue Card travelled like a dream in the 2015 Betfair Chase before effortlessly beating his old rival Silviniaco Conti to become the third horse to regain his crown in the contest.
He would go on to win the King George VI Chase and the Bowl at Aintree that season, only failing to complete an unofficial Grand Slam of British Grade 1 victories when falling at the third last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Cue Card maintained his high level of form however and went back to Haydock in 2016 to easily defend his Betfair Chase crown, running out a wide-margin winner in testing conditions to become the second horse to win a trio of Betfair Chase titles.
He would taste victory just once more, in the Betfair Ascot Chase, but Cue Card - a winner of nine Grade 1 races - becomes another Serial Winner who will be forever remembered for being one of the Betfair Chase's greatest ever champions.
Bristol De Mai
First Win: 2017
Also Won: 2018
Regained Crown: 2020
In his early career, Bristol De Mai was a regularly-raced hurdler and chaser and by the time the 2017 Betfair Chase came around Nigel Twister-Davies' 6yo had already raced 18 times since the start of 2015, registering seven victories including six over fences.
His seventh career win over fences came in quite remarkable fashion when he destroyed an ageing Cue Card by 57 lengths to, not surprisingly, become the widest-margin winner of the Betfair Chase.
After failing to win in the interim, Bristol De Mai returned to Haydock to retain his Betfair Chase crown in 2018, defeating Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River to become the fourth horse to win multiple Betfair Chase titles.
He again went on a losing run, tasting defeat in his Betfair Chase hat-trick bid in 2019 when losing narrowly to Lostintranslation, and quite remarkably he didn't win again until he regained his Betfair Chase crown - the fourth horse to do so - as a 9yo when beating Clan Des Obeaux in the 2020 renewal.
What is extraordinary about Bristol De Mai, and why perhaps he is the ultimate Betfair Chase Serial Winner, is that from 25 November 2017 to the early part of 2022 he won just three of his 16 races, all three of those victories coming in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase!
Check out all Betfair's Serial Winners columns here.
Watch Rachael Blackmore Serial Winners trailer here...