The Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday will provide a stiffer test than last year for the horses that line up. There were problems then with the portable fences the course now uses, which did not cause much of a jumping challenge.
Kirkland Tellwright acknowledged this when he set out how the course had sought to rectify the problem. He said that last year the wet summer had meant birch in the fences had rotted, making it very weak and easy for the horses to brush through. Additionally, the course had staged an October meeting, transferred permanently to Carlisle from this year, for which the course had been prepared with summer jumpers in mind.
He said, “What was appropriate for those horses to jump was different from what was appropriate for the Betfair Chase horses to jump. We found it difficult to cater for the differing needs.” The move of the October meeting created an opportunity to put things right, although the old fixed drop fences are not making a return.
Tellwright went on, “The (portable) fences have the same framed but we’ve cut them a fraction bigger, not more than an inch and a half, and they are a bit broader across the top. It was an embarrassment last year. There was an occasion in January or February when something just blasted a hole through a fence and stayed up.”
Saturday’s race will be a furlong further than usual, at a distance of 3 miles 1 furlong. This is because there’s drainage work taking place on one section of the course and means that they have to use part of the flat course. Tellwright again: “It’s basically half a furlong a lap further because at the far end of the course they are going round the bottom of the flat bend rather than the jump bend.”
That extra distance won’t be an issue for Gold Cup winners Long Run and Bob’s Worth, but means that Cue Card will be running over a longer distance than he’s tackled before. If your fancy is a horse with three miles at the top end of its stamina range, the longer distance is a factor that might make you think again before putting your money down.