North West Masters 2011  

Haydock Park

Aintree Racecourse

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Long Run Being Prepared for The Betfair Chase 28/10/11
A stronger and taller Long Run exercised today in preparation for his return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 19 and Britain’s top chaser has his first schooling session of the season with Sam Waley-Cohen up at Yogi Breisner’s this week. [more]

Hello Bud Warms Up for Another National Attempt 22/11/10
Hello Bud again showed his liking for Aintree, in a gallant performance for the father and son team of Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies, winning an eventful Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree. [more]

Imperial Commander

Imperial Commander
Imperious Commander Returns 20/11/10
If Imperial Commander still had anyone doubting that he is one the very finest chasers of recent years, surely he does not now after an imperious victory in the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday. [more]

Imperial Commander to Take His Chance at Haydock 18/11/10
Last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander is poised to make his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday, and in the process bid to go one better than he did in the Grade 1 event last year when just foiled by Kauto Star. [more]

McCain Has Fabalu Aintree Options 17/11/10
Donald McCain has engaged an interesting duo in both the £100,000 Listed Becher Chase and the £60,000 totesuper7 Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree on Sunday, November 21 - day two of the Northwest Racing Masters. [more]

Banks Forecasting More Cheer from Clerk’s Choice at Haydock 17/11/10
Permit holder and Jockey Club member Michael Banks is hoping that Clerk’s Choice can continue his meteoric rise up the hurdling ranks with victory in the £40,000 Betfair iPhone & Android App Hurdle (1.50pm) at Haydock Park on the first day of the Northwest Masters, Saturday, November 20. [more]

Goldie Plans Raid Grand Sefton and Becher Chase 15/11/10
Trainer Jim Goldie is seeking a third victory in the £60,000 totesuper7 Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree on Sunday, November 21, when he could also seek a first triumph in the day’s feature contest, the £100,000 Listed Becher Chase. [more]

What A Friend Aiming to Continue Nicholls’ Exceptional Betfair Chase Record at Haydock Park 11/11/10
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls will bid to enhance his superb record in the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase (3.25pm) with leading chaser What A Friend on course to contest the prestigious three-mile chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 20. [more]

Real Reindeer to Set Aintree's Festive Raceday off to a Flying Start
Aintree Racecourse looks set to start the festive period on Sunday 21st November with a winter warming raceday that will see Father Christmas pay a visit to the famous course with his real reindeer. [more]



Haydock Park, Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time Race Distance Prize Money

12:40pm New Download At Betfair Casino Novices' Hurdle (Listed) 2m £17,500

1:15pm Betfair Mobile Handicap Chase (0-140) 2m £25,000

1:50pm Tune Into Timeform Radio Hurdle 2m £40,000

2:20pm Betfair Racing Multiples Handicap Chase (0-145) 3m £30,000

2:55pm Timeform Betfair Racing Club “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle (Listed) 3m £75,000

3.25pm Betfair Chase (Grade One) 3m £200,000

3:55pm Betfair Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race 2m £7,000



Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Weight Jockey SP RAN

2005 Kingscliff Arnie Sendell Robert Alner 8-11-08 Robert Walford 8/1 7
2006 Kauto Star Clive Smith Paul Nicholls 6-11-08 Ruby Walsh 11/10F 6
2007 Kauto Star Clive Smith Paul Nicholls 7-11-07 Sam Thomas 4/5F 7
2008 Snoopy Loopy Walters Plant Hire/Egan Waste Peter Bowen 10-11-07 Seamus Durack 33/1 6
2009 Kauto Star Clive Smith Paul Nicholls 9-11-07 Ruby Walsh 4/6F 7

In the space of just five years, the Betfair Chase has established itself as one of the highlights of the Jump calendar. The three-mile race represents the first real test of the season for any horse with aspirations of joining the elite of Jump racing.

Alongside the Cheltenham Gold Cup and King George VI Chase, it is one of only three Grade One staying chases in Britain.

The inaugural Betfair Chase in 2005 attracted a superb field of seven, headed by Kicking King, whose four Grade One victories the previous season had included triumphs in both the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Beef Or Salmon
3 time winner of the Betfair Chase

Beef Or Salmon

Further Irish interest came courtesy of Beef Or Salmon, who had become a standing dish in his homeland’s top chases, with six Grade One victories to his name, while the British challenge was headed by Ollie Magern and Kingscliff, who had fought out the finish to the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby the previous month.

Connections were also given the chance to gain the lucrative Betfair Million, which rewarded horses who went on to further glory in top chases later in the season. The bonus was the largest incentive in Jump racing and one of the few to have been landed in recent years.

A revolutionary concept, the Betfair Million not only rewarded the owner with a £700,000 windfall but also saw money distributed to the winning jockey and trainer - £100,000 each - as well as the stable staff of the winning yard - also £100,000.

With the runners in the first Betfair Chase well bunched turning for home, Kingscliff bravely repelled the efforts of the staying-on Beef Or Salmon and Kicking King to give the Robert Alner-trained chaser a deserved success at the highest level.

French import Kauto Star had already announced himself as a top-class chaser with victory over two miles in the previous season’s Grade One Tingle Creek Chase and went into the 2006 Betfair Chase on the back of a facile success in the Grade Two Old Roan Chase at nearby Aintree.

Kauto Star
3 time winner of the Betfair Chase

Kauto Star

Relishing the step up to three miles in the Betfair Chase, Kauto Star posted an imperious display of jumping under Ruby Walsh at Haydock Park to record an impressive 17-length victory over Beef Or Salmon, with French raider L’Ami another length back in third.

Kauto Star dropped back down to two miles to successfully defend his crown in the Tingle Creek Chase before surviving a last fence error to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

He also blundered his way to victory in the Grade Two AON Chase at Newbury and went on to land the £1-million Betfair Bonus with a brilliant success over Exotic Dancer in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Despite suffering his first defeat in over 18 months when conceding a stone to Aintree specialist Monet’s Garden in the Old Roan Chase on his seasonal debut in 2007, few people expected Kauto Star to be beaten in that year’s Betfair Chase despite a field that included Exotic Dancer, Beef Or Salmon and My Way De Solzen, who had landed the World Hurdle and the Arkle Chase at the previous two Cheltenham Festivals.

With Sam Thomas stepping in for the injured Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star again failed to jump with his usual fluency but, showing the heart of a champion, found plenty under pressure to beat Exotic Dancer by half a length with Beef Or Salmon in third and My Way De Solzen back in fifth.

The prospects of Kauto Star bagging a second Betfair Million looked almost a formality after he posted a superb seven-length victory in the King George VI Chase but he was denied another huge pay day at Cheltenham when was second to stable companion Denman, who ground his rival into submission with a devastating front-running performance.

Having consistently attracted the best chasers to the Betfair Chase, the sponsor decided to change the format of the Betfair Million incentive for the 2008/09 season, hoping to further enhance the prestige of the Haydock Park contest.

The bonus could now be won by any horse finishing in the first three in the Betfair Chase who went on to be first or second in any race at the Cheltenham Festival and then landed the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree.

Despite the absence of Denman due to an irregular heartbeat, Haydock Park and Betfair were rewarded with another top-class field for the 2008 Betfair Chase, including the hat-trick seeking Kauto Star, the previous year’s runner-up Exotic Dancer and Haydock specialist Cloudy Lane, who had been sixth in the previous season’s Grand National.

Kauto Star had posted an easy success on his seasonal return at Down Royal and was expected to wrap up a third Betfair Chase with the minimum of fuss but he made a mistake three fences out and unshipped jockey Sam Thomas when making his challenge at the final obstacle.

Tamarinbleu found himself three lengths clear after Kauto Star’s departure but, in a thrilling finish, the David Pipe-trained eight-year-old could not repel the gutsy late challenge of Snoopy Loopy, who gave jockey Seamus Durack and trainer Peter Bowen the biggest wins of their careers. Exotic Dancer finished third.

Kauto Star made amends in 2009, but only just. Having added a third King George VI Chase and a second Gold Cup since his mishap 12 months earlier, the champion headed to Haydock for his seasonal debut in the Betfair Chase.
After drawing two lengths clear between the final two fences, Kauto Star found himself involved in one of the epic duels of modern times as Imperial Commander drew upsides and forced Ruby Walsh’s mount to dig deep into his reserves. Kauto Star repelled his rival by a minuscule nose at the line.

The champion went on to equal Desert Orchid’s record of four King George VI Chase victories, becoming the only horse to win the race four years in succession.

Imperial Commander subsequently won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March, when Kauto Star’s jumping errors resurfaced and he deposited Ruby Walsh on the turf four fences from home. Imperial Commander went away from Denman to score impressively by seven lengths.



Year Horse Owner Trainer Age/Weight Jockey SP RAN

2005 St Matthew Keith Nicholson Sue Smith 7-11-04 Padge Whelan 25/1 14
2006 Halcon Genelardais Ian Payne/Kim Franklin Alan King 6-10-02 Robert Thornton 5/1JF 17
2007 Millenium Royal J Vasicek Francois Doumen FR 7-11-12 Christophe Pieux 20/1 18
2008 According to Pete P Nelson Malcolm Jefferson 7-10-13 Graham Lee 11/2 F 15
2009 Diamond Harry Paul Duffy Diamond Partnership Nick Williams 6-11-12 Timmy Murphy 9/2 16

NB: the contest was run over traditional hurdles in 2005 and 2006.
It was run over Fixed Brush hurdles for the first time in 2007.

Diamond Harry

Diamond Harry

Diamond Harry defied top-weight of 11st 12lb to win the 2009 renewal of the £75,000 Timeform Betfair Racing Club "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle for trainer Nick Wiliams.

The six-year-old had proved a top-class novice hurdler the previous season with victory in the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, before finishing third to Mikael D’Haguenet in the Grade One Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Diamond Harry beat the Nicky Henderson-trained Burton Port by two and a half lengths to land the Timeform Betfair Racing Club "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle, and the pair went on to establish themselves as leading staying novice chasers thereafter.

Diamond Harry subsequently triumphed in the Grade Two Altcar Novices’ Chase back at Haydock in January, while Burton Port went from strength to strength, winning four of five starts over fences, including Grade Two successes in the December Novices’ Chase, Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase and the Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

Burton Port’s only defeat over fences came when second to Weapon’s Amnesty in the Grade One RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

Trainer Peter Bowen has not enjoyed the rub of the green in three of the past four renewals of the valuable three-mile contest. Irish Wolf was headed near the line by the Alan King-trained Halcon Genelardais in 2006, Special Envoy fell at the last flight when four lengths clear and looking a likely winner in the 2007 renewal, which went to France’s Millenium Royal, and Souffleur came second to According To Pete last year.

According To Pete was the well-backed 11/2 favourite and raced at the head of affairs under Graham Lee. The Malcolm Jefferson-trained gelding put his proven stamina to good use as he galloped clear in the home straight to defeat Souffleur by nine lengths.

The inaugural running in 2005 went to the Sue Smith-trained outsider St Matthew who won under Padge Whelan at odds of 25/1.



9 b g Flemensfirth (USA) - Ballinlovane (Le Moss)

Form: 146173/114/161/P251U- Owner: Our Friends In The North Breeder: Laurence Flynn

Imperial Commander

Imperial Commander

The stable star of the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard and the reigning king of the steeplechasers following his thrilling totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph in March, Imperial Commander passed cheaply through the sale ring as a young horse.

A 4,000 euro Goffs December Sale yearling, the Flemensfirth gelding made 19,000 euros as a three-year-old when selling at Goffs in June, 2004. Imperial Commander was an emphatic eight-length winner on his only start in an Irish point-to-point at Summerhill in April, 2005.

He made his debut for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies at Cheltenham in October, 2006, when he posted a convincing eight-length victory in an extended two-mile bumper. He returned to Prestbury Park for The Open the following month but could only finish fourth to Massini’s Maguire in a novice hurdle and made a third consecutive appearance at the course the following month when taking sixth in a Grade Two novices’ hurdle at the International Meeting.

His first success over hurdles came in January, 2007 - a no-nonsense 19-length verdict in a novices’ contest at Newcastle. Imperial Commander ended that season with two good efforts in Grade One company, coming seventh in the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival and third in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.

He made just three appearances in the 2007/08 campaign, all at Cheltenham, including an all-the-way success in a beginners’ chase at The Showcase at Cheltenham, and another front-running victory in a novice contest at The Open. He failed to complete a hat-trick of victories when trailing home last of four in another novice chase at The International, also at Cheltenham.

Growing pains forced Imperial Commander to miss the rest of the season but he returned to Cheltenham for his first start of the 2008/09 term, making his handicap debut in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup. An official mark of 139 looked generous as Imperial Commander powered to a two and three quarter length victory over Barbers Shop with a further 11 lengths back to the third home Private Be.

Imperial Commander made no impact in the Grade One King George VI Chase at Kempton Park next time, coming home sixth behind Kauto Star, but proved himself to be a chaser of the highest order with a stunning two-length victory over Voy Por Ustedes in the Grade One Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2009. He then failed to cope with the soft to heavy ground in the Punchestown Gold Cup and was pulled up by Paddy Brennan before the final fence.

The 2009/10 season got under way with a stunning effort that saw Imperial Commander almost defeat the great Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 21, as he went down by perhaps the shortest nose in history. For the second year running he failed to show his best at Kempton on Boxing Day as he finished a distant sixth to that old rival in the King George.

As he had done the previous season, Imperial Commander enjoyed a break before returning to the fray at The Festival on March 19, when he quickened away from former champion Denman for an impressive seven-length victory in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. He unseated Paddy Brennan on his latest start in the Totesport Bowl at Aintree on April 8.

Imperial Commander summered well in Northern Ireland and is back in full training with Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Race Record: Starts: 18; 1st: 8; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £572,038



The eight-strong partnership is fronted by Newcastle-born and Carlisle-based Ian Robinson, 48, who founded Our Friends In The North in 2003.

Robinson is CEO of a marine telecommunications company in the northeast and is joined in the syndicate by his wife, Gillian. They are both Newcastle United season ticket holders.

Ian first went to Cheltenham with his dad as an 11-year-old to see The Dikler win the 1973 Gold Cup, after which he told his father that one day he himself would win the great steeplechase. That assertion came to fruition when Imperial Commander won impressively for the syndicate in March.

Our Friends In The North also includes Hugh and Kay Doubtfire. Hugh runs his own corporate entertainment business, as does fellow syndicate member Denise Sheasby. The syndicate is completed by shop fitters Carston Henrikson and Martin Maxted, and Manchester-based carpet fitter Pete Williams.

The syndicate’s first horse, Bobby Dazzler, was a promising novice hurdler who landed a hat-trick in 2004, before his untimely death. The resultant insurance money was used to buy Imperial Commander.

Other horses currently under the syndicate’s ownership are smart bumper and novice hurdle winner Definitive Edge (trained by Willie Mullins), young point-to-pointers Highland Flash and Oscar’s Ballad (Mrs J B Ross), and useful handicap hurdler/chaser Valerius (Gordon Elliott).

Robinson also runs other ownership entities, including the Jump For Fun Racing Club and the Hollow Bottom Syndicate.

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