Kauto Star will face eight rivals as he bids for a third victory in the £200,000 Betfair Chase (2.55pm) at Haydock Park on Saturday, 21 November, day one of the Northwest Racing Masters. The field of nine is the largest ever since the Betfair Chase was first run in 2005.

Owned by Clive Smith and trained by Paul Nicholls, Kauto Star won his first Betfair Chase by 17 lengths in 2006 under Ruby Walsh and added a second victory 12 months later, with Sam Thomas in plate, when he defeated Exotic Dancer by half a length. Last year, when attempting the hat-trick he unseated Sam Thomas at the last. The nine-year-old, who has also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice and King George VI Chase three times, will be reunited with Ruby Walsh on Saturday.

Halcon Genelardais is set to make his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase. Trained by Alan King, the nine-year-old has been very consistent over the past few seasons and enjoyed his greatest success in the 2006 Welsh National while he finished fourth in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is also a winner at Haydock Park, having taken the valuable Betfair Handicap Hurdle at this meeting in 2006.

Alan King reported this morning: “Halcon Genelardais seems fine at the moment. We are going to Haydock because of the ground – I am hoping that the going will slow some of the other horses up!

“I don’t envisage him winning the Betfair Chase but there is a lot of prize-money on offer and I am hopeful that he can run well. We can’t have any real pretensions of beating a horse like Kauto Star but it looks like the testing conditions will probably suit us more than some of the other runners.

“The aim is to go for the Welsh National with him after this race and it gives us a nice bit of time between the two races. He has done enough work at home – he usually comes to hand quite quickly – and our horses are coming into form now. I would be more worried about the opposition than I would about him needing the run.”

Also among Kauto Star’s eight rivals on Saturday is the David Pipe-trained Madison Du Berlais, last season’s Hennessy Gold Cup winner and also successful in Grade Two contests at Kempton and Aintree last term.

Imperial Commander showed very progressive form last season with victories at Cheltenham in the Grade Three Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Grade One Ryanair Chase and is set to represent the in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies stable.

The Irish are still seeking a first victory in the Betfair Chase but look to have a very live contender this year with Notre Pere. Trained by Jim Dreaper, the imposing chaser has recorded victories in the Welsh National and the Grade One Punchestown Gold Cup. He looks sure to be suited by the likely conditions on Saturday.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls also runs Nozic, a Grade Three victor at Wetherby last season, while Rambling Minster, successful in the three and a half mile Blue Square Gold Cup at Haydock Park, is set to make his first appearance since pulling up when well-supported for the John Smith’s Grand National in April.

Completing the line-up on Saturday are The Sawyer, a Grade Three victor at Cheltenham last season, and Seymour Weld.

Final declarations were also made today for the £100,000 Listed Timeform Betfair Racing Club “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle Race (2.20pm), with 17 horses standing their ground.

The weights are headed by Diamond Harry, successful in the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury last season, while previous Cheltenham Festival winners Kayf Aramis, Oscar Park and Naiad Du Misselot also line up. Trainer Malcolm Jefferson, successful last year with According To Pete, is represented this time around by the progressive novice McMurrough.

The going at Haydock Park is currently SOFT, HEAVY IN PLACES

Clerk of the Course Kirkland Tellwright said: “It’s very blustery at the moment and we had three millimetres of rain on Wednesday night.

“We are expecting to get around 15 millimetres between Thursday morning and Friday night. Saturday might see a further 10 millimetres and we are confident that we can deal with that amount.”