Black Corton and Definitly Red are among five runners in the £100,000 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (2.40pm) at Wetherby tomorrow, the highlight on day two of the bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting.
Second-season chaser Black Corton, trained in Somerset by Paul Nicholls, teams up again with regular pilot Bryony Frost.
Their partnership was one of the stories of last season, with the pair combining to win seven races including the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The seven-year-old horse was successful eight times in total last season. Nicholls is going for his fourth win in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, following on from See More Business (1999 & 2000) and Silviniaco Conti (2012).
Course scorer Definitly Red (Brian Ellison/Danny Cook) is officially the highest-rated horse in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, run over three miles, with a rating of 164.
The nine-year-old, trained in County Durham by Brian Ellison, finished third in last season’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase before going on to register two victories, most notably when defeating American by eight lengths in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January. He then finished sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Double Shuffle (Tom George/Adrian Heskin) found only Might Bite too good in last season’s King George VI Chase at Kempton Park, when going down by a length, though he was not at that level on his next two starts. The eight-year-old, trained in Gloucestershire by Tom George, usually runs well on his first start of the season.
Dan Skelton’s horses have made a flying start to the campaign – he achieved the fastest-ever 100 winners by a jump trainer – and the Warwickshire handler, who was the leading trainer at Wetherby last season, saddles Virgilio (Harry Skelton).
The nine-year-old is two from two so far this season and comes into the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase after posting a decisive success in the Listed Summer Cup at Uttoxeter in July.
The runners are completed by Regal Encore (Anthony Honeyball/Richie McLernon). The JP McManus-owned chaser finished third in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last season, also captured a Listed handicap chase at Ascot in February and last ran at the end of April.
Trainer Anthony Honeyball, based in Dorset, reported today: “Regal Encore is in good form.
“He has done everything he normally does and we have been particularly pleased with him this season.
“We normally ply our trade in good handicaps, but we felt if it was goodish ground, with the likes of Bristol De Mai not running, we thought bet365 Charlie Hall Chase was worth a go.
“He will probably be the outsider of the field, but that does not bother us and I think he will be in the mix.”
Stayers’ Hurdle third Wholestone (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Daryl Jacob) aims to go one better in the other big contest on the card, the £40,000 bet365 Hurdle (3.15pm) over three miles, having been beaten by two lengths to Colin’s Sister last year.
The seven runners also feature Old Guard (Paul Nicholls/Bryony Frost), stepping to three miles from two on his recent Kempton Park second, and Clyne (Evan Williams/Adam Wedge), who signed off last season with a good third in the Aintree Hurdle.
Monbeg Theatre (Jamie Snowden/Tom O’Brien) is raised in class after completing a three-timer in handicap hurdles, the latest leg coming at Wetherby’s opening fixture last month when he repelled Nautical Nitwit (Thomas Dowson) by a neck in the bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting 2nd & 3rd November Handicap Hurdle.
Nautical Nitwit came into that race on the back of a summer campaign that included an eye-catching 17-length success in a Cartmel handicap hurdle in August.
Trainer Phil Kirby, who is based at East Appleton in North Yorkshire, said: “Nautical Nitwit remains in good form and has been kept busy over the summer.
“He is a lovely horse for his owners and ran well at Wetherby last time out.
“The ground is not a problem for him and, whilst it is a competitive race, hopefully he can run well.
“It is great to run in a race of this nature. He was only just behind Monbeg Theatre last time out so we are looking forward to running again.”
Kirby also saddles stable star Lady Buttons (Adam Nicol) in the Listed OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle (2.05pm, six runners), worth £22,000, over two miles.
Eight-year-old Lady Buttons finished second in the race last year before capturing a mares’ Listed chase at Bangor. She rounded off the 2017/2018 campaign with a good fourth against the boys in the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree’s Grand National Festival.
Kirby said: “Lady Buttons is in good form at home. Adam Nicol schooled her earlier this week and she was her usual electric, exuberant self.
“Lady Buttons is an absolute delight to watch and such a talented jumper. We would like some give in the ground and hopefully Wetherby gets some rain.
“She has been a stable star for us and we are looking forward to getting her season started.”
Elsewhere on the card, promising novice Thistle Do Nicely (Jamie Snowden/Tom O’Brien) bids for his second success over hurdles in the bet365 Novices’ Hurdle (12.55pm, seven runners). He quickened up nicely to win a maiden hurdle at Wincanton.
Tomorrow’s seven-race programme, the highlight of the year at the Yorkshire course, starts at 12.20pm and ends at 3.50pm.
The bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting gets underway today, November 2, with a six-race card featuring two Listed races.