Wetherby on sun alert as La Bague Au Roi is primed for Charlie Hall return
The threat of low sun could force Wetherby to reschedule Saturday’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase start time, with contingency plans in place if it looks a possibility on Thursday.
It is expected to be overcast for the course's biggest day of the season – headlined by the 3m Grade 2 chase – meaning there should be no issues for low sun, but the track has spoken to the BHA and ITV for back-up plans if that changes following the omission of three fences in the Aintree home straight in Sunday's Old Roan Chase.
Two years ago Paddy Brennan criticised the bright sun after his mount Cue Card fell in the Charlie Hall but racecourse officials are confident there will be no such issue on Saturday.
Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson said on Monday: "I put the race time to where I prefer it to be, but from the outset I spoke to ITV and race planning and we moved the race last year when it could've been a bright day.
"At the moment Saturday is forecast to be dull and overcast so it isn't necessarily going to be a problem. If that changed and it was going to be brighter then we could look at moving the race a bit earlier. We'd have to make that decision on Thursday afternoon."
The track is recovering well after part of the back straight was waterlogged when the internal drainage dykes burst their banks, and the conditions are expected to be good to soft for the two-day meeting which begins on Friday.
bet365 Charlie Hall Chase entries
Aso Venetia Williams
Atlanta Ablaze Henry Daly
Ballyoptic Nigel Twiston-Davies
Black Corton Paul Nicholls
Definitly Red Brian Ellison
Double Shuffle Tom George
Elegant Escape Colin Tizzard
Jett Jessica Harrington
La Bague Au Roi Warren Greatrex
Molly The Dolly Dan Skelton
Top Ville Ben Phil Kirby
Vinndication Kim Bailey
Sanderson added: "It is still soft, good to soft in places. We've got bright blue skies today and similar weather for tomorrow, then we'll get cloud on Wednesday and it'll warm up a bit.
"Unless we get a deluge, which we aren't forecast, I doubt the ground will get any easier so it might even go back to good to soft, soft in places but I would expect it to remain as it is.
"The water in the back straight has diminished quite significantly – I'd say that more than 50 per cent has gone already. I was surprised with how well it is looking, so things are great ahead of Saturday."
Dual Grade 1 winner La Bague Au Roi was the star name among the 12 entries for the Charlie Hall with trainer Warren Greatrex believing she is in fine shape for her seasonal return.
The race sponsors make her a 5-1 chance along with last year's winner Definitly Red and Ballyoptic, while Black Corton and Welsh National winner Elegant Escape are the joint 4-1 favourites.
Greatrex said: "We're quite pleased Bristol De Mai wasn't in but my slight concern would be the ground regarding the issue they've had down the back straight – I don't want to give her a real hard race if it's on tacky ground but the Charlie Hall is her first option.
"At the moment she's right where we want her. There's every chance she will tighten up and improve for the run but she has got a good record first time out. She's ready to go and is in as good form as I've ever had her. Hopefully she can build on last year and have a really good season."
Wetherby's card also includes the bet365 Hurdle, registered as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, where Unowhatimeanharry is the 6-4 favourite and could potentially face seven rivals.
Meanwhile Ascot stages the Grade 3 Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase on Saturday with Le Breuil, On The Blind Side and 2017 winner Go Conquer among the 29 entries.
Ascot clerk of the course Chris Stickels said: "We're currently good to soft, soft in places. The forecast says it should be dry until Thursday and then some rain and showers into Friday, and the odd shower on Saturday. Given that forecast I should imagine the ground will remain similar."
He added: "We've not experienced a problem with low sun at any meeting I've been involved in since around 2006, so I don't envisage it being a problem."
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