Nicky Henderson has announced that Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Bobs Worth, is likely to make his seasonal bow in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November. The news comes comes as a result of the race being moved to the flatter tack at Haydock with the normal jumps course out of action due to grass growth issues over the summer. That will suit Bobs Worth down to the ground with the race now a furlong further and punters can expect the Gold Cup winner to be a warm order when he arrives at Haydock Park.
The Betfair Chase has grown into one of the very best early season races over the past few years with a number of star names on the roll of honour. Previous winners include Kauto Star and Imperial Commander who both of course were Gold Cup winners themselves. Last season it was Silviniaco Conti who claimed the win for Paul Nicholls ahead of Long Run and both could re-oppose again this year, to set up a mouth-watering clash with Bobs Worth. If all three do turn up it would be a dream for National Hunt fans as well as being a key early season trial for the Gold Cup itself.
Nicky Henderson has said that he plans to get Bobs Worth out at least four times this season as long as he remains fit and on form. The Betfair Chase is likely to be followed by the Argento Chase on Trials Day at Cheltenham before he returns to the Festival in March to defend his Gold Cup crown. If he comes out of the Festival in good order, the Punchestown Festival is also on the cards for Bobs Worth with Henderson eager to take the horse across the Irish Sea in the Spring.
It would be a slight surprise if Henderson allowed Long Run and Bobs Worth to take each other on so early in the season but there may be little choice. Long Run will be trained with the King George in mind on Boxing Day and the Betfair Chase does lend itself perfectly as a prep race given its position on the calendar. The 2011 Gold Cup winner could run in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby as alternative but the Betfair does remain a possibility at this stage.
Bobs Worth was the clear winner of the Gold Cup last season and his return to the track will be an eagerly awaited one. He is already a triple Cheltenham Festival winner having also won the Albert Bartlett and the RSA Chase during his career and there could yet be more to come. He will still only be nine by the time the 2014 Festival comes around and few would bet against him retaining his Gold Cup title if he remains healthy.