THERE is one person who hopes Storm Barbara delivers a bucket load of rain this Christmas – trainer Kim Bailey.
He wants to run staying chaser Harry Topper in the feature 188Bet Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day rather than the more gruelling Welsh National at Chepstow 24 hours later.
However, Bailey says ground conditions will be key for his horse who needs heavy going to be seen at his best.
Harry Topper’s finest hour came at Wetherby three years ago when winning the Charlie Hall Chase, but the horse has been limited to just a handful of starts in the intervening period and has not raced since February 2015.
“He wants very soft ground. There’s rain forecast over the next few days so the softer the better,” said Bailey.
“He hasn’t run for an awful long time and it’s a big ask to go first time out for the Welsh National and think you’ve got a chance of winning it.
“With the Rowland Meyrick we might have a good chance of winning it if it cuts up.”
Meanwhile, Malton trainer Brian Ellison has issued a bullish update about the chances of Definitly Red.
He said “Definitly Red worked and schooled this morning and, at this moment in time, is an intended runner at Wetherby. He has been in really good form and I have been very happy with his preparation.”
Middleham trainer Micky Hammond’s stable star Just Cameron, meanwhile, heads the entries for the 188Bet Castleford Chase, the day two highlight of Wetherby’s Christmas meeting.
Malcolm Jefferson is looking forward to the spring with Cloudy Dream following his fine effort in defeat at Haydock on Saturday.
The six-year-old looked one of the northern circuit’s brightest prospects after winning his first two starts over fences at Carlisle and Haydock, but he was unable to give weight to Nicky Henderson’s Grade One-winning hurdler Buveur D’Air on his return to Merseyside last weekend.
Jefferson feels his charge will be seen to better effect on a sounder surface and is confident there is still plenty to look forward to.
“He ran a good race and he’s come out of it fine,” said the Malton trainer.
“We knew going in it was a tall order. You always want to win, but we can’t be disappointed with him.
“My personal opinion is he’s a better horse on better ground and he’ll be a better horse when they go a good gallop.
“He’ll have January off, anyway, as he wouldn’t be a horse for proper winter ground. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and I don’t think he’s let us down so far.”
Jockey Paddy Brennan reports Cue Card to be in tip-top shape ahead of his mouthwatering clash with stablemate Thistlecrack in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The Irishman has ridden Colin Tizzard’s ace in his last eight starts, including a stirring success in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase last year, and the star duo will be bidding to repeat last year’s victory in the Christmas showpiece.
Cue Card showed his well-being with an impressive victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month, a Grade One race he has now enjoyed victory in three times.
“I went down to Colin Tizzard’s this morning and sat on him for the first time since winning the Betfair Chase last month and he felt great,” said Brennan.
“In fact, he felt as good, if not better, than ever.
“I schooled him over fences, he jumped great, and I couldn’t be happier with him.”