By Andy Stephens
Sizing John, Might Bite and Cue Card are on course to clash in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 25 as their connections pursue a £1 million bonus for winning the Chase Triple Crown.
Jockey Club Racecourses announced on Thursday morning it will again offer the cash incentive for winning its three most elite staying chase prizes in the 2017-18 jumps season.
The seven-figure sum will be awarded to connections of a horse winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November, the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of Cheltenham Festival next March. 32Red offer 16-1 on any horse achieving the feat.
Jessica Harrington says Gold Cup winner Sizing John’s campaign will revolve around a tilt at the Triple Crown. BetVictor make the seven-year-old 25-1 to achieve the feat.
“This bonus is a great extra incentive and builds the season towards a crescendo for the sport,” she said. “Ever since Sizing John won in April at Punchestown we have had the Triple Crown on our minds.
“Our aim is to start him off in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. He looks fantastic and we are really keen to have a crack at the £1 million bonus for winning the three races. It's exciting to have a horse to run in these races.”
Nicky Henderson also has a contender in Might Bite, the remarkable winner of last year’s RSA Chase who followed up at Aintree’s Grand National meeting. BetVictor quote him at 50-1.
“The Chase Triple Crown is a fantastic initiative and it’s great that Jockey Club Racecourses is repeating the bonus,” the champion trainer said.
“It focuses your mind as to where to start the season if you want a chance of winning the Triple Crown. Might Bite’s main objective is the King George so with this bonus it would certainly make sense to start at Haydock Park.”
Cue Card came agonisingly close to winning the bonus two seasons ago but after winning the first two legs he fell three fences from home when disputing the lead in the Gold Cup.
The 11-year-old has won the Betfair Chase on three occasions and it is again at the top of his agenda.
Colin Tizzard, his trainer, said: “Having come so close to winning it [the bonus] two years ago with Cue Card and winning the Betfair Chase again last year we are really excited for the season ahead. Who’s to say this won’t be his year?”
BetVictor make Cue Card 100-1.
Paid over-and-above Grade 1 prize money, the bonus was initially introduced as an incentive for the 2015-16 jumps season in memory of the late, great Kauto Star – the only horse to have won the Triple Crown since the Betfair Chase was first run in 2005.
Paul Nicholls, who trained the multiple champion, said: "It’s a great tribute to Kauto’s brilliance that The Jockey Club is putting up the £1 million bonus for any horse which can repeat his incredible feat.
“Kauto was special and showed that it is possible to win all three races. There’s no reason why the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup can’t be won by the same exceptional horse in a season again.”
The £1 million would be split between connections, with 65 per cent going to the winning owners, 15 per cent to the trainer, 10 per cent to stable staff at the winning yard and 10 per cent to the jockey, split a third per race if different jockeys ride the horse.
Paul Fisher, Chief Executive of Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “Since we introduced the bonus in 2015-16 it has really caught the public’s imagination. Cue Card coming so close two years ago helped grow the interest levels in not only these three races but jumps racing across the board.
“To see a horse prove itself as the best staying chaser by winning all three of these races and the £1 million bonus would be superb for our sport.”
Fisher also stressed the bonus would again be insured, adding: “As has been the case over the past two years we have used some of our marketing budgets for the three races to insure the bonus for a modest sum for the 2017-18 season.
“Jockey Club Racecourses will this year contribute a record breaking £22.9 million to prize money and we continue to reinvest every penny we make in profit back into British racing.”