The Yorkshire Christmas Meeting is one of the highlights of Wetherby’s season and the two-day spectacular gets underway on Boxing Day, Monday, December 26 with a cracking seven-race card headlined by the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (1.50pm).
Run over three miles, the £40,000 188Bet Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase boasts a tremendous roll of honour, with future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Forgive ‘n Forget and The Thinker the standout winners, and has attracted 23 entries this year, up from 21 in 2015 and 16 in 2014.
The entries for this year’s race are headed by Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies), winner of the Grade 1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last season, while champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls has made three entries – the 2016 Scottish Grand National hero Vicente, Vivaldi Collonges and Virak.
Northern Ireland-based handler Stuart Crawford has entered Fine Rightly. The eight-year-old won a novices’ hurdle over two and a half miles at Wetherby in 2014 and is a five-time winner over fences, including twice at Grade 3 level. He was last seen out when third behind the mighty Douvan in the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork on December 11.
Crawford is currently mulling his options for Fine Rightly and said today: “Fine Rightly is also entered in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28 and that is probably the most likely option for him at this stage.
“We gave him the entry at Wetherby to give us another option as there are not many other races for him over Christmas. I will have a good look at the entries for both races and come to a decision. He has won a novices’ hurdle at Wetherby so we know he acts on the track and we haven’t ruled out coming over.
“It has been such a dry autumn and we wanted to get a run into him over fences, so that is why we ran him in the Hilly Way Chase last time out. Two miles and a furlong is very much a minimum trip for him but he ran well.
“My brother Ben rode him in the Hilly Way as we were not able to get anyone who had ridden him before and Ben knows him well. I think Ben could claim if we run him in the Rowland Meyrick, so that is also something to consider.”
Warren Greatrex saddled Dolatulo to victory in the Wetherby race in 2015 and the Lambourn handler has two contenders this time around – Ballyculla, who won a novices’ chase over the course and distance in March, and Out Sam, twice successful in novice company in the 2015/16 season.
Other contenders include Henri Parry Morgan (Peter Bowen) who was runner-up in Grade 1 company at Aintree in April and Harry Topper (Kim Bailey), winner of the Grade 2 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase over the course and distance in 2013 but not seen out for almost two years.
Local handler Sue Smith has made three entries – Grade 2 and three-time Listed scorer Wakanda, Blakemount and No Planning, who has won four times at Wetherby.
Racing on Boxing Day gets underway at 12.10pm and runs through to 3.35pm.
There will be live music in the enclosures from the LA Jazz Band and Endeavour Ceilidh Band and additional public marquee facilities will be available within the Paddock Enclosure.
Gates open at 10.00am and racegoers are advised to arrive early to avoid the traffic, plus complimentary mulled wine and mince pies will be available to help keep early arrivals warm!
A Shuttle Bus is operating between the town and the racecourse before and after racing on both days of the Meeting. It commences in the Market Square before racing on December 26 at 10.45am and 11.45am on December 27. Return journeys after racing commence at 3.15pm on both days.
Premier enclosure badges are already sold out for Boxing Day, but Paddock Enclosure admission will be available on the day and can be purchased online up to noon on Friday, December 23 at www.wetherbyracing.co.uk. Accompanied children aged under 18 are admitted for free.
The Yorkshire Christmas Meeting continues at Wetherby on Tuesday, December 27 when the highlight is the 188Bet Castleford Handicap Chase over two miles.
Hospitality for both days of the Yorkshire Christmas Meeting is completely sold out.
The going at Wetherby is currently Good to Soft, Soft in places
The outlook for the next week is relatively settled. There is some rain forecast for December 24 and 25, with around eight millimetres predicted.