Since it’s introduction in 2005, the Betfair Chase has attracted the best staying chasers in the business. Kingscliff won the inaugural race defeating Irish legend Beef Or Salmon, with the Gold Cup winner Kicking King back in third. A year later a young horse from France arrived at Haydock with a big reputation and did not disappoint. Winning in devastating fashion leaving Beef Or Salmon 17 lengths adrift; onlookers heralded the arrival of a new chasing star. A few weeks later he stepped back in trip to win the Tingle Creek before completing an incredible spell of chasing by winning his first King George at Kempton. The Aon Chase followed in February 2007 before the final act of chasing domination was completed with a first Gold Cup success at Cheltenham. That short period of incredible performances marked Kauto Star down as a future equine jumps legend. That domination continued, with a further three victories in the Betfair Chase along with a total of five King George wins and two Gold Cups. There can be little doubt that Kauto loved Haydock, almost as much as his King George venue, Kempton. Titanic battles were witnessed year after year by adoring fans. The Barry Geraghty ridden Exotic Dancer pushed Kauto all the way in 2007. Paul Nicholls’ superstar looked a probable winner again in 2008 when stumbling after the last and unseating a devastated Sam Thomas. In 2009 the future Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander pushed Kauto to the very limit when a thrilling head-bobbing finish saw our hero a nostril ahead at the line. Yet he saved possibly his finest performance for his final visit to Haydock in 2011. Written off by many as too old and past his prime, he was given a forceful ride by Ruby Walsh before jumping and galloping his opponents into submission. Rarely has a crowd become so emotionally involved in a race. Fans roared their encouragement all the way down the home straight. Such an eruption of emotion has rarely been seen as Kauto crossed the line. The scenes of joy in the winners enclosure from fans, trainer, jockey and owners, have become treasured memories. On Saturday the best three milers in training will arrive at the wonderful northern track. The race has attracted a stellar field. The winner will again become a leading contender for the likes of the King George and later the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As in years gone by stars will shine in the Betfair Chase, though non brighter than our beloved all-time great, Kauto Star.
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