Long Run primed and ready for seasonal debut
bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2) | 3m1f, 5yo+ | C4/RUK
SOME illustrious names have landed this prestigious Grade 2 prize over the years, including Wayward Lad, Burrough Hill Lad, Forgive ‘n Forget, Celtic Shot, One Man and See More Business.
Silviniaco Conti, who still held every chance when falling three out in the Gold Cup, ran out a heavily backed winner 12 months ago, and this year's feature has attracted a high-quality field headed by Long Run.
Eight-year-olds have an excellent record, having taken the prize five times in the last ten years, and the 2011 Gold Cup hero is the sole member of that age group in action.
"He is definitely ready to run," trainer Nicky Henderson said.
"He has run very well in the Betfair for the last two years so I wouldn't say he has needed the run, but at least he will go to Haydock with a run under his belt this time. Silviniaco Conti had had a run last year whereas we hadn't."
Long Run, an honourable third to stablemate Bobs Worth at Cheltenham in March, signed off last season when going down by three-quarters of a length to Sir Des Champs in a thrilling Punchestown Gold Cup in May.
Unioniste facing a formidable task
PAUL NICHOLLS is under no illusions about the size of the task facing second-season chaser Unioniste, who has a mountain to climb on official ratings if he is to pose a serious threat to Long Run.
After making a mockery of his mark of 143 in the Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Challenge Gold Cup at Cheltenham last December, the five-year-old edged out Hadrian's Approach in a Newbury novice chase prior to finishing a well-beaten fourth behind Lord Windermere in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Nicholls said: "He did well last season, but we need to get things in perspective when talking about his chance in the Charlie Hall.
"He won a handicap with 9st 9lb on his back only last December and is now taking on the former Gold Cup winner in receipt of just 4lb. It's a big step up for him, but we've got to start somewhere."
Martin a firm believer in Benefficient
SHARPENED by a spin on the Flat at Listowel in September, the serious business now begins for last season's Jewson Novices' Chase winner Benefficient, who responded superbly to the fitting of a first-time hood to claim the scalp of 11-8 favourite Dynaste at the Cheltenham Festival.
That victory came over the shorter trip of two and a half miles. The seven-year-old last tried three miles when he was beaten a length and a half into second at Newbury last December by one of his rivals, Harry Topper.
Trainer Tony Martin said: "Benefficient has travelled over well and seems in good form. We were very happy with his comeback at Listowel and we are just testing the water with him at Wetherby.
"It is going to be a very hot race. We just want to see how he gets on in this sort of company because then we can make more of an assessment about what we do for the rest of the season.
"He was just beaten on the line by Harry Topper over three miles at Newbury, so I think the trip will be okay, but we will know a lot more tomorrow."
Jefferson's big plans for Tribulation
MALCOLM JEFFERSON views the Charlie Hall as a good starting point for Cape Tribulation, whose continued rise up the ranks last season climaxed with fifth places behind Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup and First Lieutenant in Aintree's Betfred Bowl Chase.
"He's in good order," Jefferson said. "It's a tough race, but you've got to start somewhere and he does like Wetherby. Longer term he's in the Hennessy and if Tidal Bay ran we would get in off a lovely weight."
Bailey's watching brief with Topper
KIM BAILEY will plan out Harry Topper's season after he sees how the six-year-old fares this afternoon.
"He's up against it, but I'm very happy with him," Bailey said. "He's done well for his summer holiday, and it's a nice small field to bring him back in."
Hammond looking forward to Master
MASTER OF THE HALL, a former stablemate of Long Run, makes his debut for Micky Hammond, with the trainer looking forward to seeing how he shapes up in such good company.
"He's obviously new to us, but we're very happy with him at home," Hammond said. "It will be a good test, and a good starting point for him."
Wayward Prince, runner-up to Silviniaco Conti last year when a 33-1 shot, completes the seven-strong field for Hilary Parrott.
Wetherby good to soft, soft in places
Ascot good to soft
Down Royal yielding
Today's key pointer
Since the start of 2012 jockey Henry Brooke is 8/21 when riding in handicap hurdle races at Ayr, for a profit of £63.62 to £1 level stakes. He rides Ubaltique for Donald McCain in the 3.10.
Pointer courtesy of Raceform Interactive