FORMER Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree heads a 13-strong field for this Saturday’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Trained by Mark Bradstock, Coneygree made history in 2015 by becoming the first novice to win the blue riband race since Captain Christy in 1974.
The £100,000 race also features the ever popular Cue Card, who won at the West Yorkshire track two years ago, and Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red.
Though connections of the three stars have all expressed an eagerness to run in the contest, the National Hunt season’s traditional early season highlight, the quality of the remaining runners should not be discounted.
They include Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That, a former winner of the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and Blaklion who landed the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in 2016.
Other runners of note include Bristol De Mai who was a runaway winner of Haydock’s Peter Marsh Chase earlier this year, former Wetherby winner Village Vic and top staying chaser Vieux Lion Rouge from the yard of David Pipe.
Yorkshire’s only challenger is Definitly Red and the aforementioned Ellison is relishing the challenge with Definitly Red.
Not only did the horse win Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Chase on Boxing Day last year, but the chaser – owned by Tickhill’s Phil Martin – has won on his seasonal debut in three of the last four years.
“It’s like a mini Gold Cup, isn’t it?” Malton-based Ellison told The Yorkshire Post.
“He’s in good fettle and had plenty of work.
“The main two are Coneygree and Cue Card – it’s who is in the best form first time out.”