The National Hunt season is definitely up and running now after some quality meetings last weekend at Cheltenham and Punchestown. The best of this week’s racing can be seen at Haydock with the 13th edition of the Betfair Chase. This is a relatively new fixture on the jumps calendar but the limited history is full of world class winners. The legendary Kauto Star holds the record for the most wins of this Group 1 but Cue Card can equal his tally of four victories if he wins the 2017 edition on Saturday. The news that the going will be heavy prompted Jessica Harrington to pull Sizing John from the race but there is still plenty of quality options remaining for the first leg of the Chase Triple Crown that also includes the King George VI and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Haydock Park hosts some excellent, varied races on Saturday afternoon. The pick of the action is the Group 1 Betfair Chase but the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle is an exciting race in its own right. Part of the charm of the Stayers’ Handicap is that it’s been through so many changes. It does make it tough for trainers to prepare their horses properly for the race however. Is it still a race for younger horses full of promise to use as a stepping stone to chasing or for seasoned veterans to secure a healthy prize? The main change to the race this year is the introduction of new hurdles. They look like the fences you’ll find in steeplechases only smaller and may be a visual that takes fans and horses alike a little time to get used to.
Pep Guardiola was in the very fortunate position of being able to rotate his team for their Champions League game on Tuesday. The Citizens had already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition and the 1-0 win over Feyenoord confirmed they won Group F. Huddersfield Town manager, David Wagner, could afford himself a smile as he watched on. He can only dream about including players of the calibre of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling in his first team, let alone a ‘weakened’ one. Despite having nothing like the quality of the teams at the top of the top flight, Huddersfield have made a good fist of their first season in the Premier League. The undoubted highlight was their 2-1 win over Man Utd at Kirklees but what chance do they have of recording another huge win over one of the Manchester giants? Does it even matter given how far the club has come?
How quickly things can go wrong. The start of the Premier League season is full of promise and hope but just 12 games in and five managers have already lost their job. The perils of relegation are enough to worry even the most steadfast club owner but fans tend to take a more pragmatic view. Those who regularly attend matches know the score. They know that there only has to be three teams worse than their own and they’ll be able to turn their attentions to next season and the whole hole/desperation cycle can start again. Fans of both Southampton and Everton have plenty to be concerned about with their teams’ performances so far but they can rest assured that things are worse at Crystal Palace, Swansea, West Ham and West Brom. But, will it be the Saints or the Toffees who slip closer to that group scrabbling about at the bottom of the table after their meeting early on Sunday afternoon?
It’s less than a week since the European Tour season ended in dramatic fashion in Dubai.