FEW trainers have a better strike-rate at Wetherby than Wales-based Evan Williams and he will hope to justify the 500-mile round trip when the highly-promising Tiger O’Toole lines up in the first day highlight of the prestigious bet365 Charlie Hall meeting.
Even though the grey was a smart hurdler, he has yet to reach lofty heights over fences – but he did push Grade One winner Fingal Bay all the way at Chepstow last time out and appears well-handicapped in the bet365 Handicap Chase where Tom Scudamore’s mount Battle Group will look to get his nose in front after finishing second in his last three races.
Williams is no stranger to success at the meeting – both State Of Play and Deep Purple have been recent winners of the Charlie Hall.
However, Grand National fourth Cappa Bleu will miss tomorrow’s renewal, Williams saying the 10-year-old needs “more time” to prepare for a campaign that will revolve around the National.
Another unexpected absentee will be the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant. The former Cheltenham Festival winner is now likely to line up in Down Royal’s Group One tomorrow.
The good news is that Ireland’s top jockey Ruby Walsh is set to line up at Wetherby on both days.
He is booked for the Paul Nicholls-trained Sametegal in today’s Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle – the gallops reports suggest that this is a three-year-old of the highest order, even though it will be the French import’s first run in Britain.
Walsh is provisionally down to ride the perennial Tidal Bay in tomorrow’s John Smith’s Hurdle, and then rising star Silviniaco Conti in the big race.
The Charlie Hall will also see Diamond Harry return to action.
Nothing went right for the 2010 Hennessy Gold Cup winner during the last campaign and the Nick Williams-trained nine-year-old had to be withdrawn from last year’s Wetherby feature when injuring himself at the racecourse stables overnight.
“Hopefully he makes the day because we’ve had some disappointments,” said owner Paul Duffy.
“He had the wind operation which interrupted his preparation for the Gold Cup and we’ve had the farrier to look after his feet. It was a very unlucky season.”
Richard Hannon believes his Juvenile Fillies Turf favourite Sky Lantern represents the team’s best chance of grabbing an elusive first winner at the Breeders’ Cup.
The champion trainer has not enjoyed much luck at the high-octane American meeting that begins tonight, with Paco Boy and Strong Suit both failing to fire.
However, Moyglare Stud Stakes heroine Sky Lantern is drawn well in stall three and with the fast ground at Santa Anita in her favour, connections are in confident mood.
Hannon’s son and assistant, Richard, said: “She’s the top-rated horse by 5lb and although they tell me the filly from Canada (Spring Venture) is very good, we’ll have to see about that.
“She’s starting to go in her coat, which isn’t surprising as it’s turned quite cold in the UK now. We’re pleased to be running for the amount of money on offer as it’s more than she would get for winning the Guineas.”