Wetherby’s bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting, the premier meeting of the season at the West Yorkshire venue takes place on Friday and Saturday, and features two Grade Two contests plus three Listed races.
Taking centre stage is the £100,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, which is run over three miles on the Saturday, and is often used as a starting point for the best three-mile chasers. The roll of honour for this prestigious contest includes Wayward Lad, Burrough Hill Lad, Forgive ‘n Forget, One Man, See More Business, Sliviniaco Conti and last year’s stunning winner Cue Card, who is set to line up again this time around.
Cue Card progressed to win three Grade Ones – the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park, Kempton Park’s King George VI Chase and the Betfred Bowl at Aintree last season. He also fell three out when still well in contention in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and was rated 176 in the Anglo Irish Jump Classifications – just 1lb behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack.
Cue Card’s opponents this season could include 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree, who is on the comeback trail having been on the sidelines since making a winning reappearance at Sandown Park last season.
Also taking place on Saturday is the £40,000 Grade Two bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle over three miles, which has been won by World Hurdle winners Cole Harden and Inglis Drever, and the £22,000 Listed OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle over two miles.
Lil Rockerfeller (Neil King) proved to be a highly-progressive performer over hurdles last season, winning the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs at Fontwell in February. He ended the 2015/16 campaign by finishing seventh, beaten 20 lengths, behind the mighty Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
King, who is based at Wroughton in Wiltshire, said today: “The plan is very much to bring Lil Rockerfeller to Wetherby for the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle.”
“We swerved taking him to Chepstow earlier in the month as I just felt the ground wasn’t quite safe enough for him there.”
“It’s all systems go for Wetherby and the horse is in really good order. We would like to see some rain at Wetherby ideally.”
“It will be his first start at three miles but I don’t see it as being a problem for him at all. I thought we would probably go up to three miles last season but we never quite made it that far.”
“He has always been a horse with stamina and has won on galloping, staying tracks. It will be nice if the step up in trip can bring about some further improvement and he can make a good start to his season.”
Friday’s programme is headed by two Listed contests, the £27,500 bet365 Handicap Chase and the £20,000 Weatherbys Stallion Book Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle.
Yours In Sport!