The Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby is the feature of a magnificent day’s racing.
Molly Ollys Wishes won the listed 2m Mares’ Hurdle on the card 12 months ago and heads the market for today’s renewal even though she carries a 6lbs penalty for her subsequent win in an Ascot Grade 2 over an additional mile. I have backed NINA THE TERRIER (9/2), although she would be receiving weight from the favourite and Martello Sky if this were a handicap.
Alan King’s mare has race fitness on her side, finishing runner-up to the Paul Nicholls-trained Sonigino at Chepstow three weeks ago. The winner absolutely dotted up back at the Welsh track – albeit from just a 4lbs higher mark – and time might show later in the season that Nina The Terrier faced an impossible task trying to give 12lbs to the winner.
All ground comes alike to the selection, and she, like the market leaders, gets further than two miles. Sea The Sea and Mollys Ollys Wishes should ensure a good gallop, and I hope to see Tom Bellamy play the selection between the last two flights.
It would be fair to say that Philip Hobbs has made a quiet start to the new season, but he had a welcome winner at Fakenham earlier in the week, and SPORTING JOHN is an inmate with an outstanding record fresh. He is taken to land the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle under Tom O’Brien.
The selection won the G1 Scilly Isles Novice Chase last February but failed to go on over fences and, reverting to timber, won two of three starts over the smaller obstacles last term.
He has been off the track since winning a handicap at Warwick back in January off a mark of 151, but he remains a horse of some potential for one who has been ridden to victory by both Barry Geraghty and Richard Johnson yet is still only seven.
Proschema may struggle to get home if the rain arrives, and the danger looks like being last year’s winner Indefatigable, although I would be disappointed if the JP McManus-owned selection could not give the mare 5lbs.
AHOY SENOR leads Bravemansgame 2-1 in their head-to-head, although I appreciate the latter thrashed the selection in the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day, although I am convinced that is not the right track for the Scottish raider who is taken to confirm Aintree hurdle and chase form with the Nicholls’ runner who has had a wind operation since going out like a light at the National meeting.
That Feltham Chase success on Boxing Day is Bravemansgame’s sole win over three miles – save his point win – and with rain forecast, I wonder if Ahoy Senor will outstay his rival. Do note that both horses have shown a tendency on occasion to jump slightly out to the right.
The only other horse to beat Ahoy Senor – when he completed the course – last season was L’Homme Presse in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival when he didn’t jump as well as he can. If he avoids a significant error, I would be disappointed if he did not run a big race.
The rain that was forecast earlier in the week to hit Ascot on Saturday has disappeared there is enough cut in the ground to see Goshen make his chase debut, as I am keen to take him on in the opening four-runner novices’ handicap chase despite the fact that his three rivals are all out of the weights.
Goshen is a half-brother to the high-class Irish mare Elimay, so there is no reason why he shouldn’t jump a fence, is best going right-handed and has the heart of a lion, but he must give 11lbs to his three talented rivals, and I’m not convinced the Gary Moore yard are in the best of form.
I can’t have Gowel Road after a moderate chase debut at Perth, but preference for SAMARRIVE over Cobblers Dream is marginal - both are worth following this winter.
Samarrive looked the type who would make up into a better chaser than hurdler last term, and he was a smart hurdler winning four of seven starts – all right-handed. He has the size and scope to make a decent novice chaser, and there will be plenty of opportunities at Kempton, Sandown and back at Ascot if connections feel he is best going clockwise.
Cobblers Dream did us a favour when landing the Lanzarote at Kempton in January before finishing runner-up in the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival. He was not at his best at Aintree, but that was at the end of a busy season, and I suggest we put a line through the form.
Highfield One O Two really should have won at Fontwell last time, but I think the drop back to the minimum trip and a 3lbs higher mark – 10lbs if you include the jockey’s claim – will stop him going one better.
One of these days, everything is going to fall just right for Broomfield Burg, and I favour him out of the two JP McManus runners in the field. The market is headed by Anyharminasking, who has not been seen since winning a Sedgefield handicap at the beginning of the year from a 10lbs lower mark. This is a big step up in grade, and I am surprised that he is so short in the betting.
WASHINGTON is closely matched with Hacker Des Places on Aintree form from back in the spring, but the Olly Murphy trained 6-y-old is taken to reverse the form under Fergus Gregory, who has ridden the each-way selection in his last couple of starts.
The recommendation has an excellent record fresh, is a good jumper of hurdles and still looks favourably treated off his current mark.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.
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