There is a new look for the terrific Betfair Chase Day in 2017, which takes place at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 25.
Previously staged over two days, Friday and Saturday, the racing has been concentrated into a one-day fixture which continues to offer half a million pounds in prize money, making it the most valuable day in the Jump season outside of The Festival at Cheltenham and Aintree's Randox Health Grand National Festival.
Taking centre stage is the £200,000 Betfair Chase. Founded in 2006 and run over an extended three miles and a furlong for the first time (previously three miles), the roll of honour is tremendous with the great Kauto Star having scored four times (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011).
This year's renewal, the 13th running, is set to see Cue Card (Colin Tizzard) attempt to equal Kauto Star's record following victories in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Cue Card, set to be ridden by Harry Cobden for the first time, is one of 11 entries for the 2017 Betfair Chase, which were revealed on November 7, along with Sizing John (Jessica Harrington IRE), last year's Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, and Bristol De Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who landed the G2 Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park in January and started his season perfectly when winning the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 4.
Betfair recently extended its sponsorship of the thrilling Chase for another three years, supporting the G1 contest up to and including the 2020 renewal.
The Betfair Chase forms the first leg of The Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown, which offers a £1-million bonus to any horse who can win the Betfair Chase, the G1 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and the G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16.
Kauto Star won all three races in the 2006/07 season, collecting the £1-million bonus offered at the time by Betfair, while Cue Card landed the first two legs in the 2015/16 season but fell at Cheltenham.
Betfair Chase Day also features the £100,000 Betfair Stayers' Handicap Hurdle, staged over just short of two miles and seven furlongs. The prize fund for this popular contest has been boosted by £20,000 and it will be run over traditional hurdles in 2017 - fixed-brush hurdles were used previously.
Another race with a significant prize money increase is the £50,000 Cash Out In-Play With Betfair Graduation Chase, which last year took place over two miles on the Friday for £20,000, but has been very significantly boosted in value, with the distance lengthened to two miles, five and a half furlongs. The 2016 contest was won by the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Cloudy Dream, who went to finish runner-up in G1 contests at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals before rounding off the year with a deserved success in the G2 Future Champion Novices' Chase at Ayr.
This year also sees a prize money increase to the Listed Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively Betfair Newton Novices' Hurdle, which also moves to Saturday and is now worth £25,000 (up from £20,000 in 2016), while there are much increased values for both the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle (up to £50,000 from £35,000) and the Best Odds Guaranteed With Betfair Handicap Chase (now £50,000 compared to £30,000 in 2016). The Betfair Price Rush Hurdle will no longer be run.
Kirkland Tellwright, North West Head of Racing for Jockey Club Racecourses and Clerk of the Course at Haydock Park, commented: "We run the Betfair Chase on what we call the Lancashire Course, using the outer bend into the home straight.
"Several trainers said this course would suit a stayer more if horses had a chance to get into a rhythm before they entered the first bend. So to achieve that they now jump the last fence three times and therefore run over a furlong before they enter the first bend after the winning post, which explains the extra distance.
"The number of people who were advocates of fixed-brush hurdles has been in slow decline over the years and it has reached a time where there is no point in using them. People are sanguine about every hurdle race being run over traditional hurdles. The race was of course over traditional hurdles for the first two or three years of its existence.
"There are now three races worth £50,000 - the Cash Out In-Play With Betfair Graduation Chase, which we think we will get more runners over its longer distance, the 0-145 chase, the Best Odds Guaranteed With Betfair Handicap Chase, over the same distance as the Betfair Chase and the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs.
"The total prize money is £500,000, which makes Betfair Chase Day the most valuable day of Jump racing outside the Randox Health Grand National Festival and the Cheltenham Festival.
"I expect the going to ride soft as usual, but it will be fresh ground as Betfair Chase Day is our first Jump fixture of the season."