Charlie Hall Chase Preview
The jump season is already hotting up with the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby this weekend. Many top-class horses have won this over the years such as One Man, See More Business and of course Cue Card who won this two years ago. This time sees a repeat of the 1-2 in the Betfair Chase Cue Card and Coneygree, who take each other on again. Let’s go into detail on the leading fancies for the feature on the card.
The big two in the market
This horse looked to have the world at his feet back in 2015 having become the first novice to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 40 years but many setbacks and injuries and only seen him on a racecourse three times since. He is clearly a top, top class racehorse and is one of the toughest Front-runners I can remember and this has obviously been the plan for a while but surely he is no certainty to retain all that ability from 2015. But, he might not need to having ran a cracker to be beaten only one length in the Punchestown Gold Cup behind Djakadam and Sizing John in April and he might well have won but for a mistake two out. Soft ground seems ideal for this tough stayer and Nico De Boinville has a very good record on him. He was beaten behind Cue Card easily in the Betfair Chase but he loves that track whereas this fella basically set it up for him (heavy ground) and he had to overcome a huge layoff. I think this ground will be better and he has a less absence to overcome this time so I don’t think there will be much between them this time. Plus he receives 6lb from Cue Card and the other penalised rivals. Coneygree will obviously come on for the run but his class might get him home in front as he comes out best at the weights, loves soft ground and gets on well with this rider. Add in the fact he is a superb jumper which will make it difficult for the rest. My main negative are his odds but that might be value come the end.
What a superstar he has been for Colin Tizzard. A multiple Grade 1 winner and he has shown he is not done with yet despite him being nearly 12. He’s rated 4lb higher than Coneygree and was last seen going down only a neck to Tea for Two in the Betfred Bowl, possibly given a terrible ride who went too hard on him (should have won). Cue Card won this two years ago easily and is well suited to soft ground (good record). He has fallen twice in the Gold Cup three out when going fairly well both times and is surely to be very popular here with punters. But, my main concern is the fact he was beaten in last year’s renewal and is up against tougher opponents such as Coneygree, although he beat him easily in the Betfair Chase. That did come on good ground and that could possibly have been to blame for his defeat. The softer ground will be much more to his liking and he simply can’t be dismissed, because he’s a cracking horse. I find it hard to seperate him and Coneygree and i know this Warrior won’t go down without a fight, that’s for sure. His price is a bit short though.
Where does the value come from?
Village Vic is tough but seems out of his depth, the same can be said about Indian Stream and also Sizing Codelco. Vioux Lion Rouge will be aimed at the National in mind again and Shantou Flyer doesn’t look up to this level.
BRISTOL DE MAI
Nigel Twiston-Davies has a good record in this race and will be trying to improve that record with 159 rated Bristol De Mai, who is still only six years old and after finishing a good third in the Denman Chase he went on to finish a solid 7th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and has proved more than once he is a top staying chaser. He disappointed the last time but he’d had a very hard season and with another year on his back he is sure to keep on improving with Big targets ahead of him. My worry with him is that he has failed to win first time out for the last two seasons and this is competitive enough for a horse who fails on his age for the trends as older horses have a great record in this. He is still an each-way player to say the least.
Tough little terrier and was last seen finishing an honourable fourth in the Grand National. He’s a winner over C&D having landed the Towton two years ago beating Definitely Red easily when conceding that one 7lbs and is now 11lb better off with that rival here. He was a beaten fourth in this last year but he seems a horse better suited with cut in the ground having proved himself to be very effective on soft to heavy. He doesn’t have an awful lot to find here to play a major part and will be a threat to all if returning in the same form as last season. My big concern though is that he seems to need further these days because he doesn’t seem to have that change of gear which saw him land the RSA chase last year. I would love to see him win this but he may be playing for a place again like last year, which he failed to do and he doesn’t exactly look much value.
MORE OF THAT
More of That looked a superstar when over hurdles having won the World Hurdle beating Annie Power and would have a chance if returning to his best. The soft ground will help and he finished a good 6th in the Gold Cup and would finished in the frame but falling late on the Irish Gold Cup when making ground. However, he’s become rather inconsistent and his record first time out is terrible. Don’t get me wrong I love this horse and if he was back to his best he would definitely be a serious contender but I just can’t have him for this and he will likely need the run. It would take a massive turn of form from him to land this prize having been far from his best for the best part of two years.
This Harry Skelton trained horse seems interesting despite the fact he has a lot to find at the ratings. He finished second in the Feltham although well beaten before being third behind Might Bite at Aintree. He was last seen running away with a class 2 3m chase at Aintree by 7 lengths. Virgilio has a good record fresh and handles soft ground well (won twice over hurdles). The yard have obviously targeted this race as a starting point for him and I can see him running well at a big price although he might not be good enough to win. A massive plus is that he likes winning having won 6 of his 12 starts.
The Tom George trained runner keeps on improving and was desperately unlucky to not have won a Grade 3 at Kempton last season beaten half-a-length and made a bad blunder late on when conceding the winner one and half stone. He would have an each-way if this was faster ground but he has a lot find at the weights again and the ground will likely be too soft for him. I think he will be a surprise winner of this race off 151 although he travels very strongly in his races which is an asset.
There is no getting away with the fact this horse improved leaps and bounds last season and was a devastating winner of the Rowland Meryck Chase last December over C&D, destroying decent opposition including Blaklion. Brian Ellison is very confident his smart chaser has what it takes at this level and he was unlucky in the Grand National when last seen having travelled well but got badly hampered and the saddle slipped so Danny Cook was unable to do anything but pull him up. That run is easily excused and his record fresh is very good (3-4 in the last four years). He was an easy winner of the Grimthorpe at Doncaster on soft ground and that run alone would put him in the mix. He’s now rated at 159 and his record over fences is impressive with four wins and three places from 10. He loves soft/heavy ground with figures on either reading 11121P212213U1. Danny Cook takes the ride who has a great partnership with him 212111P. He ticks a lot of boxes for this and seems to be the only rock solid value in the race at decent odds.
HOW WE BET
Obviously Coneygree and Cue Card set a fair standard but both are no value for my liking and the one horse who should relish this step up to Grade two level is DEFINITELY RED representing Brian Ellison and Danny Cook. He improved with every run last season and he is proven winner over C&D along with the fact his record on soft ground is absolutely rock solid as mentioned above, so that is massive plus on his chances. His partnership with Danny Cook is also rock solid, so that’s two cracking form figures and he impressively won two staying chases on soft ground over 3m and 3m2f. He won’t lack for stamina and he’s won first time out three of the last four seasons. Being only 8 years old means he is still open to further improvement and the yard have already said they have him as fit as they can for this. Definitely Red is a very smart, accurate jumper and if the two market leaders don’t run up to form, he will be the one to take advantage. I find it very hard to see him out of the frame at very generous odds and he fits more trends than the rest of the field.
DEFINITELY RED – 0.5 POINTS EACH-WAY
8/1 available generally, 1/5 odds, three places.