Timeform chief correspondent Jamie Lynch picks out five important dates coming up in November, including the Breeders' Cup and the Betfair Chase...
"It could be an epic chase that sets the season alight."
Jamie Lynch on the 2018 Betfair Chase
It happens less so now that mobile phones automatically change the time, not that it prevents a passing panic, but nothing used to bring amateur football to a halt like the clocks going forward or back, when a Sunday morning game turned into a guessing game of who'd turn up when. The crossover from October to November is when Britain moves away from BST (British Summer Time) and reverts to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and when racing moves away from BST (Blue-blooded Speedy Thoroughbreds) and reverts to GMT (Gordon/Mullins Tyranny).
But, while the 'i' has been dotted, the 't' in Flat hasn't quite been crossed, as November serves as a shared stage for National Hunt and international hunting.
1. BREEDERS' CUP, Churchill Downs - Nov 2,3
There are two types of racing fans in Britain: those who enjoy the Breeders' Cup and say it, and those who say they don't but privately do. What's not to like? In the game of give and take, it doesn't take betting nor jingoism to appreciate it, but it gives generously if you buy into it, seeing the Breeders' Cup for its story, its surroundings, its stakes and its showdown.
And the showdown element is elevated when Gosden takes aim at America with two rare rockets like Enable and Roaring Lion, the former flying towards the Turf and the latter let loose in the Classic itself, parachuting onto the dirt, while Mendelssohn has been practicing on it all year.
Those are just three of a record 48 pre-entries from Europe, with as many as seven in the Mile, including Polydream, who's honing her impression of Goldikova, and Gustav Klimt, who has perfected his impersonation of Antonius Pius, an underachiever who was stimulated by America and ought to have won the Mile, and following that one's lead is a process for Gustav and a project of mine.
2. DOWN ROYAL FESTIVAL - Nov 2,3
The JNwine.com Champion Chase is a Grade 1, won three times by a reappearing Kauto Star, a measure of its significance as a seasonal starting point... but it's probably only second on the billing for this year's meeting. There's the usual sea of maroon washing over a Grade 1 chase in Ireland, with Gigginstown responsible for five of the first six on the Betfair Sportsbook's ante-post list for the JNwine.com Champion Chase, headed by Ryanair winner Balko des Flos, supported by Sub Lieutenant and Shattered Love to name but two, the maroon leaving Clan des Obeaux marooned as the sole interloper at single-figure odds.
But the maroon monster isn't any of those running on the Saturday but the one pencilled in for the WKD Hurdle on the Friday, therefore drawing a line the length of the season to the Champion Hurdle, the first world Samcro is being asked to conquer, leaving chasing until later on. His only blemish so far was a fall three out (when still tanking along) when odds-on, as a novice, in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in April, in no way subtracting from his star status, arguably the most important horse of the jumps season, making the WKD Hurdle arguably the most important race of November.
3. MELBOURNE CUP, Flemington - Nov 6
Seven of the last eight Melbourne Cup winners were either trained or bred in Europe, a habit becoming an attitude, accentuated by a glance at the betting for this year's race, as, even with Withhold and Latrobe ruled out recently, virtually all of those who matter are made and managed in Europe. Aidan O'Brien's late-blooming Yucatan powered his way to the front of the grid after he powered his way to the front of the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield in his prep run, as much as six lengths clear before geared right down. The blitz attack by Yucatan is in stark contrast to the measured, methodical, mapped-out approach taken by Magic Circle, purposely put away for Flemington ever since he started with a big-time bang for Ian Williams in May.
The race that stopped a nation has morphed into a nation that shops for a race, several British buy-ins succeeding, including Green Moon and Fiorenti in 2012 and 2013, but no British trainer has yet won the Melbourne Cup, though few raiders have been so pinpointed as Magic Circle.
4. THE NOVEMBER MEETING, Cheltenham - Nov 16 - 18
The BetVictor Gold Cup and the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle are the headline events of the first major meeting of the jumps season, but it's the newer names who set the tone for different divisions that really ignites the spark of this Cheltenham fixture.
In 2017, away from the handicaps, Finian's Oscar, On The Blind Side, Apple's Shakira and Black Corton all set standards of sorts, points of contact and points of reference for the season, and not just the winners, as Summerville Boy was second on the Sunday last year.
Summerville Boy might have had more on his plate in the Supreme had If The Cap Fits not missed the spring festivals through injury, having put in some big performances (and big times) in novices when working his way up through the winter, and a mark of 147 makes the Greatwood a very tempting target for If The Cap Fits, considering he has grade 1 potential.
5. BETFAIR CHASE, Haydock - Nov 24
It produced an unbelievable performance last season - unbelievable in the strictest sense of the word - as Bristol de Mai bulldozed his way to a 57l (vidiprinter: fifty-seven lengths) win in the Betfair Chase, one that left enthusiasts and "experts" scratching their heads for an explanation, but it probably came down to one thing: on the ground index in British racing, on the sliding soft scale, it goes good to soft, soft, heavy and then Haydock.
If Bristol de Mai turns up in the same form, and the ground churns up in the same state, then you can pretty much guarantee that the result - if perhaps not the margin - will be the same. More orthodox conditions means Bristol de Mai will have his work cut out with one or both of the Gold Cup one-two, Native River and Might Bite, if they're given the go-ahead for Haydock, more than likely with the £1m Triple Crown bonus in play, encompassing the Gold Cup, the King George and, first up, the Betfair Chase. It could be an epic chase that sets the season alight.
Minimum Bet Guarantee
Betfair's 'minimum bet guarantee' on all Class 1 and 2 races in the UK and Ireland - which means all customers are able to bet to win a minimum of £500 - has been extended to cover all races at selected meetings this week. T&Cs apply.
The 10/1 which he currently is with the Betfair Sportsbook might not sound like a big price in the ante-post world, but Rather Be has all the hallmarks of a horse who could go off 4/1 for the BetVictor Gold Cup. As a second-season chaser who made a big impression in his first, while lightly raced, Rather Be has the perfect profile for this high-value handicap, and he failed by only a head in a novice handicap at last year’s Festival, over the BetVictor course and distance. That was on soft ground, but if it’s better then it’s even better for him.