The Jockey Club has announced that it will once again be offering a £1m bonus this season to any horse which completes the Triple Crown of the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase at Kempton and then the Cheltenham Gold Cup at March’s Festival.
This winning treble is something that has only been accomplished once in the past 12 years, but there have been other near misses in this period.
None more so than the last National Hunt season when Cue Card completed the first two legs of the double before falling three out in the Gold Cup when bang in contention.
He is 33/1 to win the Jumps Triple Crown this term, but the fact that but the fact that Colin Tizzard’s stable star will be an 11-year-old by the time Cheltenham comes around is a big negative to his chances. No horse older than 10 has landed the Gold Cup spoils since 1969.
The price is 20/1 that any horse wins the unique treble, following in the footsteps of Kauto Star a decade ago.
And if there is a horse best positioned to do it this season then it is a young back that has plenty in common with a young Kauto Star.
Kauto was a six-year-old when lining up as a heavy favourite for a Grade 1 2m chase at the 2006 Festival, falling at the third fence of the Champion Chase.
Despite ending that season with a cosy success over 2m4f at Aintree, it still seemed more of an experiment when Paul Nicholls sent him to the Betfair Chase over 3m to kick off the following campaign.
Victory followed at Haydock and then another arrived in the King George, although a runaway win in the Tingle Creek over 2m in between suggested that Nicholls still wasn’t sure as to the best Cheltenham target – a chance at redemption in the Champion Chase or the stamina test of the Gold Cup.
Nicholls opted for the latter and Kauto Star delivered in a helpful steadily-run race.
If a horse is to replicate Kauto Star this upcoming season, Douvan is the one with all of the potential.
He won five Grade 1s over either 2m or 2m1f as a six-year-old last season for Willie Mullins and is widely expected to improve once stepped up in trip.
Few doubt that a tilt at the Gold Cup is nailed on at some point, it is just whether it will be this season or whether he will have another campaign over 2m first, which will culminate with a run in the Champion Chase.
Given Mullins clearly has concerns over the stamina of Vautour and Djakadam has fallen short in the Gold Cup before, it may ultimately hinge on whether the trainer has the patience to play the waiting game with his superstar.
A run to test the stamina waters in the Betfair Chase will provide some sort of indication. Douvan is 40/1 to win the Triple Crown this season.
Away from Cue Card and Douvan, Thistlecrack is another contender as he is sure to step up to the larger obstacles after dominating the staying hurdling division last term. Although the fact he is yet to jump a fence in public means that running him in the Betfair Chase will represent a degree of risk.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.