Ground holds key for Tim Easterby’s Hawk High at Wetherby

Trainer Tim Easterby.
Trainer Tim Easterby.
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TIM Easterby’s former Cheltenham Festival winner Hawk High carries local hopes in the Castleford Chase – the day two highlight of Wetherby’s Christmas meeting.

Winner of the Fred Winter Hurdle at the National Hunt Festival more than five years ago, Easterby hopes the ground won’t be testing for the Trevor Hemmings-owned horse.

“He is in good form as long as the ground isn’t too hevay,” the Great Habton-based trainer told The Yorkshire Post. “He looks well and is going well at home.”

Brian Hughes, the season’s leading jump jockey, will be in the saddle.

A two mile race which has lost much of its prestige in recent years, Nicky Richards says his challenger, Duke Of Navan, is “in fine fettle” and is another who wouldn’t want conditions too testing.

But the Cumbrian trainer laments the fact that the race is now a handicap when, in its heyday, it attracted Queen Mother Champion Chase heroes like Viking Flagship.

“Even though I have a runner, it saddens me that it is no longer the race that it was,” says Richards.

“I hope Wetherby look at it again in the New Year – they should be very disappointed that it doesn’t attract the top horses and should be looking in the mirror and asking why?”