CHAMPION trainer Paul Nicholls plans to make a late call on whether to let Black Corton return to action at Wetherby or Ascot this weekend.
Runner-up in the Galway Plate in late July, the admirable eight-year-old is entered in the feature bet 365 Charlie Hall Chase at the West Yorkshire track and also the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot.
Black Corton, a former Grade One winner, finished second to Definitly Red in last season’s Charlie Hall – the horse made a bad blunder under Bryony Frost – and Wetherby’s feature race of the year, worth £100,000, has always been the intended target.
However recent rain – the back straight was under standing water at the weekend – is prompting Nicholls to rethink
“He’s a little bit ground dependent – he doesn’t want the ground too soft,” he said. “I’d like to go to Wetherby because the weights and the conditions suit him better and there’ll be a smaller field, but he does like Ascot, and if Venetia Williams’ horse (Aso) at the top of the weights did run, it would be worth looking at.
“We’re going to make a decision on Thursday evening or Friday, depending on the weather forecast and what else runs.”
Meanwhile Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has already won the Charlie Hall a record five times, has explained why he is likely to be represented by Ballyoptic, rather than 2017 winner Bristol De Mai, in Saturday’s big race.
Bristol de Mai, a flamboyant grey, will head straight to Haydock on November 23 where he will attempt to win the Grade One Betfair Chase for a third successive year.
“He’s not in the Charlie Hall. He’s going straight to Haydock. Everything’s OK with him,” confirmed Twiston-Davies before saying that he was heartened by Ballyoptic’s winning return at Chepstow earlier this month.
Twiston-Davies also has his eyes on the Bet365 Hurdle, the main supporting race on the card, with Ballyandy, who steps up to three miles for the first time.
The eight-year-old shaped well when sixth in Chepstow’s Silver Trophy on his first start since he was third in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
“It’s his first chance at this trip so it will be interesting to see how he goes. We think he will be good,” he said.
Glen Forsa could use the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham next month as a stepping stone towards a return to the top table.
The Grade Two contest on November 17 has been earmarked as a possible starting point by connections of the Mick Channon-trained seven-year-old along with the Hurst Park Handicap Chase and the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot six days later.
After running out an emphatic winner of the rearranged Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown in February, the Tim Radford-owned gelding failed to complete his next two starts after unseating in the Arkle at Cheltenham before pulling up in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
Jack Channon, son and assistant trainer, said: “Cheltenham was a bit of a mess as we had that big downpour there then he made the mistake and unseated Johnny (Burke).
“He was travelling great at Aintree and he made one bad mistake that completely knocked the stuffing out of him. We know he has the ability there it is just about getting the confidence back into him. Tim Radford, his owner, is keen to go to the Shloer as he would like him to be a Champion Chase horse.
“Off his mark of 150 you would like to think he could win one of those big handicaps though. The race at Ascot is a nice pot to win and we are certainly looking at it and there is also the 1965 Chase.”