The trainer has had this Grade Two contest over an extended three miles in mind for a while as the gelding’s seasonal debut under jockey Jonathan Burke.
George feels ground conditions will be in Clondaw Castle’s favour as the nine-year-old sticks to three miles following two big runs over that trip in the latter part of the last term.
He won the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton in February and was then second to Clan Des Obeaux in the Grade One Betway Bowl at Aintree’s Randox Health Grand National meeting.
“He’s in great form. I’m very happy with him. This has been the plan for a while,” said George. “Hopefully the rain stays away and they don’t throw too much water on the place. He likes good ground so it looks like everything could be in his favour.
“If the old Cyrname turns up, we’re a lost cause but if he doesn’t we’re there to pounce. I think we’re still heading in the right direction and there’s a lot more to come.”
Eight horses have been entered for the prestigious race, the first significant test of the new National Hunt season.
Final declarations have to be made by 10am with a small but select field likely to be headed by Cyrname who was imperious when winning last year’s Charlie Hall under Harry Cobden before disappointing on his two subsequent starts. The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old has something to prove, but he is reported to be in good shape ahead of his eagerly-awaited comeback.
“The plan is to go to Wetherby. It has been from the start of the season. He’s training well. His record fresh is very good so we’re hopeful of a big run,” Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s got a bit to prove after last season. He’s a talked-about horse. He looks in good nick. We think he’ll run well but he has to go and do it on the track.
“Last year he loved Wetherby. It’s a flat, galloping track and a fair one so, hopefully, there are no worries on that score at all.”
The going at Wetherby is good, with ground staff continuing to water the track in case the forecast rain does not materialise.
Meanwhile, the opening day of the Charlie Hall meeting tomorrow sees Ahoy Senor make his debut over fences in the three-mile bet365 Novices’ Chase.
The six-year-old is a hugely exciting recruit to this sphere having ended last season with a seven-length defeat of Bravemansgame in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree under former Grand National-winning jokey Derek Fox.
Exciting French import Porticello makes his first appearance for Gary Moore in the Weatherbys Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle.
The son of Sholokov won a newcomers’ hurdle at Auteuil in April and the form of that win has received a couple of significant boosts this month – runner-up Magistrato won impressively at Chepstow while the third, Imprenable, was narrowly beaten back at Auteuil.
Moore said: “He was pretty expensive and the form of his win in France obviously looks pretty good. I just hope he lives up to his reputation.”
Meanwhile, Colin and Joe Tizzard will hold out for soft ground as they make early plans for their ever-popular 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River.
Next month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock could be his starting point.
“It is a race we’ve had a lot of success in, with Cue Card and Lostintranslation,” said Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father Colin.
“I’m hoping it will soften up so we can start there with Native River.