On September 21st Jockey Club Racecourses announced its 2017/18 Chase Triple Crown incentive promising a £1m bonus to any horse winning The Betfair Chase, the King George, and the Gold Cup, all run at Jockey Club tracks.
When announcements like this are being planned it’s common to contact trainers seeking supportive quotes and the Jockey Club published positive comments from three trainers – Jessica Harrington (Sizing John), Nicky Henderson (Might Bite) and Colin Tizzard (Cue Card).
Here’s what Henderson said: “The Chase Triple Crown is a fantastic initiative and it’s great that Jockey Club Racecourses is repeating the bonus. It focuses your mind as to where to start the season if you want a chance of winning the Triple Crown. Might Bite’s main objective is the King George so with this bonus it would certainly make sense to start at Haydock Park.”
Not an outright commitment but sufficiently positive to tempt me and others into taking 50/1 about Might Bite winning the big bonus. Some would have been tempted to back him outright for the Betfair. But Henderson very quickly began pedalling backwards.
The Jockey Club announcement was published by the Racing Post on September 24th. On September 25th they carried an interview with Henderson:
“The £1 million bonus is very commendable and the point of it is to attract the King George horses – you can’t win it if you don’t win the first leg, so everyone is going to want to turn up at Haydock and we could, as the Betfair Chase has its attractions, but I’m not convinced it’s the best place for him to start.
“This horse might just be better suited to having, if possible, an easier preparation race for the King George, rather than what is likely to be a very tough race at Haydock.” Since then the trainer has continued easing his way out from his initial quote finally reaching the stage today where he says the horse won’t be going to Haydock.
I like Nicky Henderson. He’s great with the press and I’m sure that all he was trying to do here was support racing and back a headliner project. But it seems plain now that he never had any true intention to run Might Bite in the Betfair.
I’ve been betting antepost for decades, mostly on the festival and am well used to setbacks, most of which I accept as part of the normal risks (I say mostly: the business with Vautour and his Ryanair rerouting made it very tough to smile and carry on regardless). But punters put £4.5bn a year into UK racing and where people like Henderson can cut us some slack rather than rattling off a quick paragraph for Jockey Club friends to stick in their press release, it would help a little.