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Betfair Chase: Paul Nicholls and his six of the best

The Betfair Chase at Haydock Park is the pre-eminent stayers contest in the first part of the National Hunt season in Britain.

The Grade 1 event over three miles is a prestigious contest in its own right and also a key pointer towards the likes of Kempton's King George and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham later in the season.

Paul Nicholls is the top trainer in the Haydock contest with six wins gained with two horses.

The iconic Kauto Star is a four-time winner of the Betfair Chase, while Silviniaco Conti won it twice in three years in his pomp for the Ditcheat supremo.

Here we look at 'six of the best' for Nicholls in the Haydock contest.
 

2006: Kauto becomes the king

Having fallen when favourite in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the previous March, Kauto Star returned in the autumn of 2006 to win the Old Roan at Aintree, before taking his first stab at the Betfair Chase.

He started favourite despite never previously having raced over the three-mile trip and Ruby Walsh held him up in a six-runner field.

They cruised into the lead at the final fence, still on the bridle, and drew away to win by 17 lengths from Beef Or Salmon in second.

In a remarkable campaign, Kauto Star would retain his Tingle Creek over two miles a fortnight later, bag his first King George on Boxing Day at Kempton and win the Cheltenham Gold Cup come March.

His Cotswolds success netted a £1million bonus for winning the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Gold Cup in the same season and, to date, he is the only horse to complete the Stayers Chase Triple Crown.

2007: Thomas and Kauto reign supreme

A year later and with Walsh sidelined, Sam Thomas stepped in and proved an able deputy on Kauto Star.

He had been surprisingly beaten on his comeback in the Old Roan at Aintree but still started as odds-on favourite for more Haydock glory.

This time he had a race on his hands as long-time rival Exotic Dancer for Jonjo O'Neill and Barry Geraghty kept with him once the jumping was done. Kauto Star fended him off by a half-length, with Beef Or Salmon a distant third.

Another King George would follow at Christmas, but Kauto Star was downed in the defence of his Gold Cup as he finished second to stablemate Denman in a blockbuster clash at Cheltenham.

2009: Imperial Commander fended off in a thriller

Having surrendered the crown in 2008 as he unseated Thomas at the final jump, Kauto Star grabbed it back in a real thriller 12 months later.

He had taken back his Gold Cup from Denman in the spring and now he faced a stern challenge from Imperial Commander for Nigel Twiston-Davies and Paddy Brennan.

The front two pulled more than 20 lengths clear before a battle royal in the run to the line. Under maximum urging from Walsh, Kauto Star prevailed by a nose to win his third Betfair Chase.

Imperial Commander would take the Gold Cup crown come March in the Cotswolds, after Kauto Star fell at the fourth last fence.

2011: Kauto rolls back the years

Having skipped Haydock in 2010 in favour of a trip to Down Royal to win their Grade 1 Champion Chase, Kauto Star went back to the Merseyside venue in 2011 and produced an epic win.

He stared down the reigning Gold Cup kingpin, Nicky Henderson's Long Run - a horse who had beaten him in both the Cheltenham showpiece and the King George the previous season - and was a 6/1 chance to regain his Haydock title now aged 11.

With Walsh on board, Kauto Star made his own running and when Long Run came to challenge them, he was turned away as Kauto became 'King of Haydock' one last time in a stirring contest that warmed up a cold winter's day.

He would also beat Long Run in the King George the following month - his record-extending fifth win in that race - before being pulled up in his sixth time competing in a Cheltenham Gold Cup, the last race of his incredible career.

2012: Silviniaco Conti steps up

With Kauto Star retired, Nicholls needed a new kid on the block for Haydock and he turned to Silviniaco Conti in 2012.

Having won the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby early in the same month, he was second-favourite as Long Run made his bid again as market leader.

Once more, Walsh made all in front and, while Silviniaco Conti didn't jump the last with much fluency, he had enough in reserve to see off Sam Waley-Cohen and Long Run in second.

After winning again at Newbury in February, Silviniaco Conti fell when travelling well at the third last in the Gold Cup, as Bobs Worth scored for Henderson and Geraghty.

2014: Conti plays his cards right

Cue Card won the Haydock race in 2013 as Noel Fehily and Silviniaco Conti could only manage third, but they were back with a vengeance in 2014.

Fehily's partner was second favourite, but once Cue Card started to cry enough in front, they came and picked up the pieces, repelling the challenge of Menorah late on, with Dynaste in third and Cue Card back in fourth.

It ensured Nicholls had won six of the first ten runnings of the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Perhaps he only shock is that he hasn't added to that tally since. 

Bravemansgame is 8/1 to end the Nicholls wait for his seventh win in the Haydock showpiece on Saturday 25th November.
 

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