November is an exciting time for fans of jumps racing. The Showcase Meeting at Cheltenham whet the appetite of punters toward the end of October, but we get down to the real nitty gritty stuff this month.
First up is the November Meeting (17-19 November) back at Cheltenham, which many consider to be the curtain-raiser of the jumps season. Then it’s on to Haydock Park for the prestigious Betfair Chase on November 25.
The three-mile, one-and-a-half-furlong race is a Grade 1 contest that’s often used as a warm-up event for the lucrative King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Festival in March.
The entries are out for this year’s renewal, and it looks like we’re going to be treated to a memorable race as some of the stars from the biggest yards in the United Kingdom and Ireland are set to line up for starter’s orders.
Protektorat has opened as the short-price favourite to defend his title at 11/8 after impressively winning the Betfair Chase last year.
The Dan Skelton-trained horse was fancied at 15/2 behind odds-on favourite A Plus Tard. However, the Gold Cup winner had to be pulled up by Rachael Blackmore three out, and Protektorat went clear to win by 11 lengths from Eldorado Allen.
The part-Sir Alex Ferguson-owned horse was a disappointing fourth in the Cotswolds Chase and fifth in the Gold Cup in his other two runs last season, but is expected to make a winning return here.
Paul Nicholls holds the record for the trainer with the most wins in the Betfair Chase with six, but whether Bravemansgame is going to attempt to add to that remains to be seen.
The 2023 Gold Cup runner-up is currently second in the horse racing odds. However, he made his seasonal reappearance when second in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby earlier this month.
Therefore, it seems unlikely Team Ditcheat will send him out again so soon with the defence of his King George VI title in mind.
Gerri Colombe broke bettors’ hearts at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival when failing to win the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on the second day of the meeting.
The consensus was the Gordon Elliott-trained horse was one of the bankers of the Festival after winning three straight races over fences, but he went down by a shorthead to The Real Whacker.
Nonetheless, Gerri Colombe bounced back with a comfortable victory in the Mildmay at Aintree, and it will be interesting to see if he can be a top-class chaser outside of novice company this season — which he already looks after winning the Champion Chase at Down Royal on reappearance.
If you told somebody a couple of seasons ago that Shishkin would be targeted at the Gold Cup, you probably would have been laughed out of the room.
Yet, here we are. The multi-time graded winner has taken to the longer distances relatively well, winning the top-level Grade 1 Aintree Bowl over three miles and a furlong at the Grand National Festival in April.
That means the additional half a furlong for this trip shouldn’t be an issue for the Nicky Henderson-trained horse, but you just never know how Shishkin is going to show up anymore as he certainly isn’t the consistent performer he once was.