Charlie Hall Chase subject to 7am inspection at Wetherby Racecourse
Course officials are keeping their fingers crossed that racing will go ahead on Saturday – following the loss of Friday’s first day of their prestigious two-day bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting.
They have called an inspection for 7am Saturday and racegoers are advised to check the course’s X (formerly Twitter) account and website for an update before travelling.
Clerk of the course, Jonjo Sanderson said: “I honestly couldn’t tell you what our chances are as it’s just a waiting and watching game – it’s like watching a pan of water trying to boil.
“As we stand at the minute the water on the track is still there. The dykes are receding moderately and it’s just a question of what comes first – the inspection and the time of the meeting or the clearing of the track.
“As it’s all elements of things out of my control off-site, I honestly couldn’t say whether our chances of racing are 50-50, 70-30 or 20-80."
On the track, if racing does go ahead, only four runners are set to go to post for the Charlie Hall, Wetherby’s top race of the season, but it still looks an intriguing renewal with last year’s odds-on favourite Ahoy Senor set to re-oppose the Nicholls horse.
Lucinda Russell’s charge failed to fire 12 months ago and trailed home last of the five-strong field, while the winner went on to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, before finishing a valiant runner-up behind superstar Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Ahoy Senor also lined up in the Gold Cup but fell when going well on the second circuit under Derek Fox, who is also back in the plate today.
The horse went on to win the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase before ending his season finishing second in the Grade One Alder Hey Aintree Bowl Chase.
Dual Grand National winning-jockey Fox is able to take the ride having successfully appealed a 10-day ban picked up at the West Yorkshire track last month.
He said: “I’m delighted I’m able to ride him, it’s all systems go and we’re looking forward to getting him out again.
“I’ve rode him out and we’re all happy with him – he’s in good form and all seems well.
“He might have needed it (the run) a bit last year. I actually don’t think he ran that badly, he was just a bit free and got a bit tired.”
The Charlie Hall is set to be run in testing conditions and trainer Paul Nicholls was originally keen to point his charge, again ridden by Harry Cobden, towards Haydock’s Betfair Chase, but concerned about bottomless ground on Merseyside later this month, has elected for Bravemansgame to take the Wetherby and Kempton route again.
Nicholls told Betfair: “He enjoyed an amazing time last season and I couldn’t be happier with him as he bids to win the Charlie Hall for the second year running.
“It makes sense to go for the Charlie Hall with only three opponents declared against him. He won this race easily a year ago and the race comes at the right time for him ahead of the King George VI Chase at Kempton.”
The Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame is likely to be the only Irish representative in the race and also arrives in good fashion with a second in a Grade Two race at Gowran Park last month under his belt.
Dan Skelton was the leading National Hunt trainer at the West Yorkshire track last season and he looks to have a few live chances today.
He saddles outsider of the four Midnight River in the Charlie Hall, ridden by brother Harry, but his Cherie D’Am, in the opening 6 Horses Challenge At bet365 Novices’ Hurdle (12.40), Mount Tempest in the following Bet Boost At bet365 Handicap (1.15) and Kateira in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle (1.50) all look to have good chances.