IT’S remarkable that the last 12 renewals of the Betfair Chase (3.00) have been won by just three trainers. Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard and Nigel Twiston-Davies each have four winners in the three-mile Grade 1. Indeed since it was first run in 2005, there has only been two other winning trainers, Robert Alner with Kingscliff in the first running and Peter Bowen with 33/1 Snoopy Loopy in 2008.

Bar those two horses, there has been only six other horses on the roll of honour.

Perhaps the nature of this beast, an early season Grade 1 over a unique course and distance (and usually soft ground) lends itself to the same trainers and same horses often coming out on top.

The other thing to note is there has been no Irish winner from scant representation, just two runners in the last 10 years, which contrasts to the early years of the race when Beef Or Salmon finished second twice and third once.

So in many ways A Plus Tard is the outlier today. He is the best horse in the race on form but that may not be the defining factor.

He faces rivals from the Nicholls and Twiston-Davies yard who will likely revved up to give it their very best. That will certainly be the case for Bristol De Mai, who aims to equal the record of Kauto Star with four wins in the race.

This is his Gold Cup. A Plus Tard’s Gold Cup is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. And while Henry de Bromhead has earmarked this race from a long way out, it must be noted that the Cheveley Park-owned chaser has been beaten on all three of his seasonal debuts in Ireland.

And you simply cannot rule out Nicholls who has six wins in the race when you add in Silviniaco Conti’s two. He was typically hopeful about Next Destination during the week, ensuring that the horse was “ready for his life” and that this test would be ideal for him.

Malcom Denmark’s nine-year-old was a top-class hurdler for Willie Mullins but injuries have curtailed his career and given his fragile state there may only be a few more bites of the cherry for him, today being one of them.

Waiting Patiently is having his first start for Christian Williams and is another intriguing runner. He has no wins since the 2018 Ascot Chase but has placed in five of his seven runs, all at Grade 1 level, and gets another go at three miles having flown home in the King George last Christmas.

Royale Pagaille is another Haydock specialist who can’t be written off despite connections’ hopes for a softer surface.

It’s a deep contest, deeper than usual – the biggest field since 2014 – and if A Plus Tard can win this first time up, he’ll be the staying chaser to beat this season. This is fitness and proven course ability versus class, and it’s intriguing.

Back on Song at Ascot?

SONG For Someone was a smooth winner of the Coral Hurdle (2,40) 12 months ago before going on to win the International Hurdle.

That left his trainer Tom Symonds dreaming about a Champion Hurdle bid, but it all went Pete Tong when he found an in-form Goshen 22 lengths too good in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, prompting connections to miss Cheltenham, before he was ultimately pulled up in the Aintree Hurdle.

Today, the six-year-old is on a retrieval mission first and foremost, but remains a talented operator and has had wind surgery in his off season.

His young trainer reported: “I just want to see him back to the horse we saw at the beginning of last season.

“I know that doesn’t always equate to winning, but as long as we see that I’d be happy.

Quite interesting

“He’s done well there (Ascot). It’s the kind of track he enjoys the nature of. It’s quite interesting with Goshen, they are one apiece. It’s quite funny – one ran quite well and the other one hasn’t each time. It was like that for Goshen at Cheltenham (in the International Hurdle) and similar for us at Wincanton, so it will be interesting to see how they get on.

“There are other horses, too, but just between them it’s quite interesting. It’s what is good about the game, horses coming up against each other all the time.

“It’s fingers crossed for a good run, but we’re very happy with him.”

Goshen is something of an enigma, bordering on the downright disappointing. His connections will be hoping for rainfall, as will those of Buzz, the Cesarewitch winner, who many have put up as a potential top-class three-mile hurdler.

His trainer Nicky Henderson said: “I’m starting him off over two and a half on Saturday, but hope we end up with a two-miler and even a three-mile horse.

“After Ascot we might have to go three back there in the Long Walk – I can’t say we won’t do that. What is certain is that he needs the cut in the ground, and we were aware of that when we were going into the Newmarket race.”