DEFENDING champion Bristol De Mai heads 11 entries for the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase - Wetherby’s feature race of the year.
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the grey beat stablemate Blaklion in a thrilling finish to a prestigious race which is the National Hunt season’s traditional curtain-raiser.
However, Twiston-Davies told The Yorkshire Post that Bristol De Mai will only run if there’s significant ease in the ground - the going is currently good and the West Yorkshire track is being watered on a daily basis ahead of Saturday’s feature.
The same applies to Colin Tizzard’s former King George hero Thistlecrack. The £100,000 Charlie Hall has always been the intended target for the 2016 World Hurdle winner, but he, too, needs ease in the ground.
Yorkshire hopes rest with Brian Ellison’s Defintly Red, who has not raced since being unplaced in the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Danny Cook when very tacky ground put paid to his chances. Cook’s mount also holds an entry in the West Yorkshire Hurdle on the same card.
Former champion trainer Paul Nicholls could be represented by Black Corton, a first Grade One winner last December for Bryony Frost, and Clan Des Obeaux, whose owners include Sir Alex Ferguson.
Black Corton’s participation depends on a schooling session this week, according to assistant trainer Harry Derham who said Clan Des Obeaux is another in need of significant rainfall.
Alpha Des Obeaux, Outlander and Don Poli have been handed entries by top Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.
The field is completed by Double Shuffle (Tom George), Virgilio (Dan Skelton) and Regal Encore (Anthony Honeyball).