Will it or won’t it?
Will she or won’t she?
Those are some of the most commonly occurring questions in UK politics right now. Willa Brexit deal be voted through the House of Commons, and will it be ready in time for the March 2019 deadline?
And then there are the rumour surrounding the prime minister’s position. Can Theresa May survive a coup on her leadership, and potentially vote of No Confidence if the Brexit talks continue to rumble on?
Even though these are unique waters that that British politics are currently sailing through, hoping to avoid all of the potential icebergs in the way, I think we all knew that the EU exit plan would be a marathon, not a sprint – apologies for the mixed metaphors.
Stamina, determination and a will to succeed will guide the UK – and Theresa May – through these dark times, and the PM might well be served to watch those three attributes displayed in abundance in Saturday’s edition of the Betfair Chase.
For the uninitiated, this is one of the premier long-distance races in the National Hunt calendar, and is one of the few occasions prior to Christmas where we will get to see the premier stayers go at it toe to toe and indeed hoof to hoof.
The declarations are in for the 2018 renewal, and while only five horses will take to the turf at Haydock Park it really is a high class quintet to savour.
Here’s a look at each in turn, and let’s see if we can identify a likely winner for us to back; that would certainly raise Theresa May’s spirits!
Might Bite – Evens
There aren’t many who would contest the statement that Might Bite is the best long-distance horse currently operating in the UK and Ireland.
The nine-year-old has been different class since the start of 2017, winning eight of his nine starts and taking the spoils in some top-notch Grade 1 races to boot.
The Nicky Henderson trained powerhouse showed his class in the King George VI Chase last Boxing Day, and followed up by steaming home in the Betway Bowl in the spring.
At his best on slightly quicker ground, Might Bite will enjoy such conditions at Haydock with the rain largely staying away.
The only blot on his copybook came at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, where he was quite convincingly outrun by another contender here, Native River.
But that was on heavier ground, and with Haydock in slicker condition Henderson might just fancy his charge’s chances of gaining revenge.
Native River – 5/2
His win in the Gold Cup really did put the cat amongst the pigeons, and confirmed that on the mud you won’t find many better than the eight-year-old.
But concerns on lighter going pervade, and punters with fairly good memories will recall the Cheltenham Festival of 2017, where Native River was comprehensively outrun by Sizing John on good ground in that year’s Gold Cup.
So there’s very much cases to be made for and against the Colin Tizzard steed, who will be enjoying his first outing since that Cheltenham triumph.
If there’s no overnight rain at Haydock Park, it might just be wise to steer clear from a betting perspective.
Bristol De Mai – 15/2
The seven-year-old followed in the footsteps of legends like Kauto Star, Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card in winning this renewal 12 months ago, and so he really must be respected.
Mind you, that was run on a mudbath after Haydock took a wintry deluge, and the goalposts will be moved somewhat on Saturday.
The concern for Nigel Twiston-Davies is that his horse likes to lead from the front, and if the pace is high there have to be concerns about his ability to stand up to speedier challengers around him.
With three wins at Haydock, Bristol De Mai is the archetypal horse for the course, but with no significant rain in the weather forecast you would question whether he has the accelerator to get the job done in this high-class company.
Clan Des Obeaux – 8/1
If you had look at the bookmakers’ prices earlier today, Clan Des Obeaux had been given little chance here. They’ve since shortened to 8/1 (from 12/1) but that’s still a way from the front runners.
That’s not surprising either, given that the six-year-old lacks for experience in these Grade 1 fields and over the 24f mark; he has just one long-distance run to his name.
The French run horse ran reasonably well when third to Might Bite and Bristol De Mai in the Betway Bowl, but clearly improvement is required for him to get into the mix on Saturday.
Thistlecrack – 12/1
Something of a joker in the pack, Thistlecrack comes into this race as the old hand who has plenty of miles – and injuries – on the clock.
Indeed, this will be his first start in nearly a year and just his third since January 2017.
And so it’s hard to know what to expect from the ten-year-old, although reports emanating from the Tizzard camp suggest he is running well very well on the gallops.
Lest we forget, this is also a former King George champion too.
So it’s one of those suck-it-and-see moments: I won’t be backing him, and yet if he turns up and wins I still wouldn’t be overly surprised!