Big Race History: Betfair Chase

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Kauto Star, Sam Thomas up, on his way to his second Betfair Chase victory in 2007

Kauto Star, Sam Thomas up, on his way to his second Betfair Chase victory in 2007

"The 1893 Lancashire Chase, won by the Henry Linde-owned Red Prince II, was worth more than the Grand National"

Malcolm Pannett takes a look at the short history of the Betfair Chase and the rather longer tradition of the race it is registered as.

The Betfair Chase on Saturday at Haydock Park is the highlight of day one of the North West Masters weekend which concludes the following day at Aintree with a card that features two races over the Grand National fences. The three-mile chase has quickly established itself as a top event over the past four years mainly due to the exploits of Kauto Star (see below).

In 2006 the Betfair Chase was, along with the King George VI Chase, the joint-fourth most valuable race in the programme book behind the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase. However the race it is registered as was once worth more than the National itself. That race is the Lancashire Chase also known sometimes as the Great Lancashire Chase.

Run mainly on Easter Monday the Lancashire Chase was inaugurated at the New Barns Manchester Racecourse in 1884 with the Tom Cannon-owned Saville winning at the expense of seven rivals.

The second running went to Redpath who had finished fourth in the Grand National a few weeks before. The son of Uncas went on to win the Grand Steeplechase de Paris as well as taking the Steeplechase de Flandres seven times - or maybe eight depending on which records are consulted.

Having established itself as a top event the prize money rose until in 1893, when the Henry Linde-owned Red Prince II obliged, the race was temporarily worth more than the Grand National.

The next year Ilex (1894) became the first horse to add the Lancashire Chase to his Grand National triumph. The other horses to win both races are Why Not (1891); Eremon (1907); E.S.B. (1959); the great Manifesto (1894) who won two Grand Nationals as well as finishing second three times; and Poethyln (1918 and 1919) who won two Nationals the second of which was a wartime replacement at Gatwick. Vermouth (1915) also won a substitute Grand National.

The other dual winners of the Lancashire Chase are; Fairland (1902 and 1903) who won the first two races after the race was transferred back to the old Manchester Racecourse at Castle Irwell; The Duffrey (1910 and 1911); Coloured School Boy (1949 and 1950); Hart Royal (1957 and shared the 1958 race) and Eternal (1960 and 1961).

Other notable winners include: Savoyard (1887), Magic (1889) and Trump Card (1927) who all won the Grand Sefton Chase; Breemont's Pride (1899) winner of the Irish National and third in the Grand National; Roman Oak (1892) who had won the Aintree Champion Chase the year before; Cooleen (1935) second to Battleship in the 1938 Grand National; Fortina (1947) who also won that season's Cheltenham Gold Cup before going on to become a leading sire; Avenger (1934) who beat Reynoldstown the subsequent winner of the next two Grand Nationals; and Tudor Line (1955) second in two Grand Nationals.

The 1958 race ended in a dead heat between Hart Royal and Dovetail while Templedowney (1916) and Captain Dreyfus (1919) won wartime substitute races at Windsor.

The race was moved to January in 1952 but was abandoned three years in a row due to bad weather before the race went ahead again in 1955. Two years later the race reverted to its original Easter Monday spot. But seven years after that the racecourse closed down with Rough Tweed (1963) going down in the record books as the last winner until the race was revived.

2005 - Kingscliff reversed Charlie Hall placings with Ollie Magern to land the first Betfair Chase by a length-and-a-quarter. Robert Alner's charge stayed on well from the home turn to hold Beef Or Salmon and the reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner Kicking King with Ollie Magern , who had made most of the running, fading to finish last of the seven runners.

2006 - Kauto Star, who had fallen when favourite for the previous season's Queen Mother Champion Chase, made the transition to the staying chasing big time with an easy 17 length-victory over Beef Or Salmon with L'Ami back in third. The ascent to greatness continued with wins in the King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup which reaped an additional seven figure sum in the shape of the bonus offered by Betfair for winning all three races.

2007 - Kauto Star made it two in a row after an epic tussle with Exotic Dancer. The pair had finished first and second in the previous season's Cheltenham Gold Cup and the son of Village Star won again responding bravely to score by half length. Beef Or Salmon again made the frame but at a respectful 18 lengths behind the main protagonists with a further 16 lengths back to Turpin Green.

Last year - After an excellent prep race in the Chase at Down Royal Kauto Star was sent off at 2/5 favourite to land the hat-trick. After making good progress he hit the third last. Suddenly it was going to be hard work. Digging deep Kauto Star was nearly on terms with pacesetters Snoopy Loopy and Tamarinbleu at the last but stumbled and Sam Thomas came off leaving the Peter Bowen-trained Snoopy Loopy to peg back Tamarinbleu in front of a stunned Haydock crowd to win at 25/1.

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