The Duke’s Weekend Review

A fantastic battle is expected in the Betfair Chase on Saturday, and we’ll come to that, but first a bit of a debate.

I was at Cheltenham last weekend and having a conversation with a few guys who know a thing or two about racing.

The subject of equine superstars was raised and it was suggested that going into this National Hunt season, there are few genuine world-beaters.

Altior is certainly a brilliant horse, but who else could you class in that bracket of the exceptional. Buveur D’Air has won two Champion Hurdles, so on paper at least, he should be on the list.

Apart from that there’s some very good horses, but they have yet to put themselves into that otherworldly realm, that has been home to the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Kauto Star in recent times.

I would love to see both Faugheen and Douvan return to their best, as they are both genuine monsters on their day. Faugheen looked a little wooden at Punchestown last weekend and would need to improve a fair bit from that to contend the bigger races this season.

Two horses who could step up to the plate are Might Bite and Native River, who go head-to-head in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. The latter, trained by Colin Tizzard, outstayed Nicky Henderson’s chaser up the hill in the Gold Cup, for a memorable victory. However, the bookies have priced the race in favour of a reversal.

Quite simply, Might Bite will prefer better ground, while Native River would have a stronger chance if some rain comes. Bristol De Mai would also like it to bucket down, given he won this race in extreme conditions last year. Had the ground been any softer, the jockeys would have needed armbands to stay afloat.

Clan Des Obeaux would need to show marked improvement, while the wild card is Thistlecrack, a former Cheltenham Festival winner, who also won the 2016 King George before the wheels fell off. He hasn’t done much since and had some issues. At his best he’d give it a right go, but it’s hard to tell exactly where his level is after almost a year off the track and nearly two years since his last win.

For me, given the ground conditions, I do think Might Bite will take quite a lot of beating. It would be fantastic to see him improve on what we have seen so far and maybe enter that world of superstars.

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