A superb field of 10 is set to go to post in the £40,000 Grade Three 188BET Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (1.50pm), the feature at Wetherby on the first day of the Yorkshire Christmas Meeting, Boxing Day, Monday, December 26.
RSA Chase victor and top-weight Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Jamie Bargary (3), 11st 12lb) looks to have strong claims after an eye-catching fifth behind Native River in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time out at Newbury on November 26. He travelled powerfully for much of the three and a quarter mile contest before fading late on.
The seven-year-old has strong course form at Wetherby having defeated Definitly Red (Brian Ellison/Henry Brooke, 11st) and Native River in the Grade 2 totepool Towton Novices’ Chase in February.
Twiston-Davies said today: “Blaklion has been fine since Newbury and goes to Wetherby in good shape.
“He nearly won at Newbury and ran a great race. He has top-weight but surely this race won’t be quite as hot as the Hennessy.
“We know he runs well at Wetherby and he must have a very good chance.”
Also lining up is Seventh Sky (Charlie Mann/Jake Greenall, 11st 8lb), who was fourth in the Grand Sefton Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree last time out, and Yala Enki (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch (3), 11st 8lb), the impressive eight-length winner of the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock Park on December 17.
Local Yorkshire interest is provided by Wakanda (Sue Smith/Danny Cook, 11st 8lb), who landed three Listed handicap chases last season and Silver Tassie(Micky Hammond/Finian O’Toole (5), 10st 5lb).
Henri Parry Morgan (Peter Bowen/David Noonan (3), 11st 7lb), runner-up in a Grade 1 contest at Aintree last season, bids to put a disappointing first run of the season in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury while Ballyculla (Warren Greatrex/Gavin Sheehan, 10st 9lb), a winner over the course and distance last season in novice company, is due to make his seasonal reappearance.
There are two novices in the line-up. Our Kaempfer (Charlie Longsdon/Richie McLernon, 10st 11llb), who was third in Grade 2 company at Newbury last month, and bottom weight Actinpieces (Pam Sly/Miss Gina Andrews (3), 10st 4lb), a dual winner at Wetherby including on her latest appearance in a three-mile novices’ chase on November 23.
The 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.
Racing on Boxing Day gets underway at 12.10pm and runs through to 3.35pm. The opening Extra Places At 188BET Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle sees exciting mareThe Nipper (Warren Greatrex/Gavin Sheehan), who won three of her four bumper starts, make her hurdling debut.
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.
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 (3.05pm, 17 entries) 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.
The forecast is for generally dry conditions, with strong winds between today and Sunday.
Some rain is forecast for this afternoon (up to four millimetres) and Sunday evening (one millimetre).
Boxing Day is forecast to be bright and sunny, with temperatures of seven degrees Celsius and a much calmer day.