this has already been a landmark year for Middleham Park Racing, who will be hoping that their successes on the Flat are replicated under National Hunt rules with horses like Bishop Wulstan, one of the equine stars lining up on day one of Wetherby’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase meeting.
The mount of Aidan Coleman in today’s £20,000 Listed Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Wensleydale Hurdle, the horse was a modest performer on the Flat under the tutelage of champion trainer Richard Hannon before switching to the yard of up-and-coming NH handler Harry Whittington.
Bishop Wulstan won his debut race over hurdles at Ludlow earlier this month – champion conditional Gavin Sheehan was in the saddle – and Whittington is confident ahead of a competitive heat which also includes Malton trainer Brian Ellison’s Come On Sunshine and Full Day.
“Bishop Wulstan’s preparation has gone very well,” said Whittington, whose late grandfather Colin Nash’s mare Game Trust provided the then teenager Richard Dunwoody with his first success in a hunter chase at Cheltenham back in May 1983.
“We expected him to run well on debut but to go and win was a bit of a surprise.
“He has gained a lot of confidence for winning that race at Ludlow. All he has done is improve since then and has been schooling really well. The track at Wetherby should be fine and he wants good ground.”
Meanwhile, a field of eight will go to post for £28,000 Listed bet365 Handicap Chase headed by the Sue Smith-trained Mwaleshi.
The mount of former Grand National-winning jockey Ryan Mania, the nine-year-old horse took the Grade Two Premier Kelso Hurdle in March 2013 and made a smooth transition to fences last season with two victories from four starts.
Mwaleshi’s rivals include Scottish Grand National third Trustan Times for Great Habton trainer Tim Easterby and Viva Colonia, who represents Ellison.
With conditions on the easy side of good after the ground was watered and also light rain, clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson cannot wait for two competitive days of action that will culminate with tomorrow’s £100,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase – the richest race of the year at the West Yorkshire track.
“Everyone at Wetherby is really looking forward to two excellent days’ racing,” he said.
As for Middleham Park Racin, who arrange ownership syndicates from their base in Barton-upon-Humber, their 2014 standard-bearer 2014 G Force could be heading to Hong Kong.
Trained at Nawton by David O’Meara, the horse won the Group One Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock under Danny Tudhope before being hindered by an unfavourable draw, and conditions, on Qipco Champions Day at Ascot.
O’Meara’s Prix de l’Abbaye sprint winner Move In Time, as well as top miler Custom Cut, could also head out to the Far East prior to December’s lucrative meeting in Hong Kong.
“I need to speak to the owners, but it is possible Move In Time and G Force could both be heading to Hong Kong. It is something we are thinking about,” said O’Meara who previously campaigned stable stalwart Penitent at Sha Tin. “It was greasy old ground when G Force ran at Ascot and he just couldn’t get a grip on it.”
Richard Hannon admits a good start will be imperative if Osaila is to cap a memorable first season for the trainer with a Breeders’ Cup winner in the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita tonight.
Osalia has won the Group Three Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot in July and finishing a close fifth in the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
The Al Shaqab Racing-owned filly will be partnered by Frankie Dettori for her Californian mission.