Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com and new racing radio station racingfm.com looks forward to this weekends Charlie Hall meeting at Wetherby.
Horse racing in Wetherby first took place on Scaur Bank (now officially known as King George V playing fields although still most commonly referred to as ‘Scaur Bank’ or ‘The Ings’). In 1891 racing moved to a new site situated off York Road.
One of the big meetings of the season at Wetherby takes place this Friday and Saturday. The highlight is the course’s richest race of the season on Saturday, The Charlie Hall Chase, which for the sixth consecutive year offers prize money of £100,000. Total prize money on offer for the meeting has been increased to over £260,000.
Leading contenders of the jumping game are set to be in action at Wetherby as the current season over Jumps starts to move up several gears. Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase is a Grade 2 contest over three miles and one furlong and is recognised as one of the most important and informative early-season races for top chasers as they set out on the long road to the Cheltenham and Grand National Festivals in the spring.
The race commemorates the local Champion Hurdle winning trainer, Charlie Hall who recorded a remarkable 169 winners at Wetherby from his base at nearby Towton. In all, he trained 584 winners over jumps, plus some 100 winners on the flat. He passed away in 1977, aged 75.
Probable contenders include Cheltenham Gold Cup third and fourth The Giant Bolster and Silviniaco Conti, Irish contender First Lieutenant and last year’s winner the Kim Baily trained Harry Topper.
This prestigious race has been won by some of the best chasers over the years, among them Wayward Lad, Burrough Hill Lad, Forgive ‘N’ Forget, Celtic Shot, Barton Bank, One Man, See More Business, Grey Abbey, Our Vic, Deep Purple and Nacarat.
Saturday’s seven-race programme begins at 12.55 p.m. and a classy card also includes a pair of valuable hurdle contests. The bet365 Hurdle, a Grade 2 race for staying hurdlers, whose ultimate target could be The Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
At Fishers Cross, Phillip Hobbs’ Fingal Bay and Zarkandar all hold entries, while current World Hurdler and Annie Power conqueror, More Of That will go off favourite, should the Beneficial gelding turn up.
The OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle, a Listed race for fillies and mares, currently has interesting entries, including John Quinn’s Aurore D’Estruval and the Nicky Henderson trained Springinherstep.
The action on Friday begins at 1.10pm. and the afternoon’s twin highlights are a pair of Listed races. The Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Wensleydale Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle is a contest for precocious three-year-old hurdlers.
Unbeaten French import, Top Notch, trained by Nicky Henderson will be the centre of attention, while John Quinns’ Mr Gallivanter, rated 82 on the flat, won at Kelso earlier this month by 21L, will be one to keep an eye on.
The bet365 Handicap Chase is held over the extended two-and-a -half miles, where Bear’s Affair, Many Clouds and Hollow Penny will be interesting contenders.
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