The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby is the first major staying chase of the new jumps season and the current titleholder Cue Card is the hot favourite at 4/6 (3.20pm, Saturday live on Channel 4). Is defeat really out of the question? He has to pay the penalty for his former glories, shouldering 10lb more than some of his rivals.
His trainer Colin Tizzard (pictured) now benefits from the full time assistance of his son Joe but some of their horses have looked to need their first run. For instance, Gentleman Jon was well beaten on his debut but reversed the form with some of the same rivals at Chepstow last week.
Joe rode Cue Card at home last Saturday reporting that he felt superb and just as good as he did at this time a year ago. His jockey Paddy Brennan also believes that Cue Card has retained his spark. Last season Cue Card won four of his six starts and took this race convincingly on unsuitably soft ground, beating Dynaste by nearly four lengths. His three subsequent victories at the top level resulted in his rating reaching an all time high of 176 putting him 20lb above the majority of the field.
Dynaste, the other 10-year-old in the line-up, looks ungenerously priced at 10/1. He has not managed to get his head in front since he won the Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014. His trainer David Pipe has tried head gear and a tongue tie but this likeable grey seemed to have ongoing problems last season. Dynaste was beaten about 20 lengths in all his starts after finishing as the runner-up here except one – he was beaten over 100 lengths by Cue Card’s illustrious stablemate Thistlecrack over hurdles.
Although he had a winner on Friday, Pipe’s yard is not fully firing yet. Unless something life-changing such as an effective breathing operation has been achieved over his summer break, Dynaste looks unlikely to emulate last year’s placing. So this Charlie Hall Chase preview will look elsewhere for its betting tips’ selection.
In contrast Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat operation is flying. He saddles the seven-year-old Virak (8/1) who was runner-up in four of his six starts last time. Sue Smith’s Wakanda got the better of him twice in listed races over this distance, beating him half a length at Newcastle in November and by a length at Ascot a month later. Virak was beaten into second by another horse from the same stable in the Peter Marsh Chase in January at Haydock – Cloudy Too by 15 lengths.
The yard form makes the stable cat a contender in a lesser affair but Virak’s race record strongly suggests that he needs good to soft or slower ground to be at his best. ‘Kept on at the same pace’ is the refrain of his form implying that he is game and genuine but not the fastest. His only recent encounter of good ground was first time out in the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in October 2015. Virak was beaten 12 lengths and finished out of the money.
The positive side of his failure to score recently means that he has no penalties to shoulder and carries only the base weight of 11 stone. Virak’s rating of 156 suggests he needs some help to get close to the favourite. Sean Bowen has ridden Virak once before, winning a handicap chase on soft ground in 2015. Similar ground is probably needed for the partnership to retain their 100% success rate.
Wakanda (25/1) initially looks generously priced on the back of his form with Virak but, after beating him twice, the wheels fell off and he pulled up in his next two starts. They were in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January and the Betfred Bowl Chase in April. He had never failed to finish before, suggesting a serious issue.
This will be the seven-year-old Wakanda’s seasonal debut so we will not know if the problem has been fixed until after this race. The stable’s form to date inspires no confidence so he is probably best watched.
The Charlie Hall Chase betting suggests that Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion (6/1) could be the most likely beneficiary of a substandard performance by the favourite. This seven-year-old son of Kayf Tara won the RSA Chase but that form may not be quite as good as it sounds. The RSA favourite, Nicky Henderson’s More Of That, broke a blood vessel and the 16/1 outsider, Willie Mullins’ Shaneshill finished half a length behind him in second. On the positive side, Shaneshill went on to finish second to Thistlecrack in the Liverpool Stayers’ Hurdle and was runner-up in a top class hurdle race in the US. Blaklion went on to finish third, beaten about seven lengths by Tizzard’s Native River in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April.
Blaklion’s victory over course and distance in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase in February is encouraging. He beat Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red eight lengths on ground so heavy that two fences were omitted but he does not need mud to perform although it seems to help him. As usual Twiston-Davies’ horses are definitely not wanting on the fitness front making Blaklion one for the shortlist.
One horse who should enjoy conditions is the 11-year-old veteran of the field, Menorah (10/1). His trainer Philip Hobbs has made a pretty good start to the season with 20% of his chasers winning and a similar proportion hitting the frame. Menorah won this race on his seasonal debut two years ago but pulled up in the mud last year. He went on to win the Oaksey Chase in April when encountering his conditions, beating the 4/5 favourite Valseur Lido.
Rated 162, Menorah has to shoulder the same penalties as the favourite but is a more sturdily built individual who thrives on a decent surface. Champion jockey Richard Johnson will be hoping for a place at the very least.
Rebecca Curtis’ Irish Cavalier (16/1) completes the line-up. This seven-year-old scored twice last season, on his debut in an Intermediate Chase at Newton Abbot and in the valuable Guinness Handicap Chase at Punchestown in April. Both those wins were over trips of less than three miles. When he was tried in the Betfred Bowl over this distance Irish Cavalier fell at the last and did not look likely to trouble the winner, Cue Card.
Unlike his rivals, Irish Cavalier has already been out this season, starting as the favourite in a two and a half mile handicap chase at Chepstow three weeks ago. He looked to need the run and weakened into fifth, beaten nearly 20 lengths by Nicholls’ Art Mauresque. That effort coupled with the mediocre start made by Curtis’ charges makes it difficult to fancy him.
Our Preview’s Charlie Hall Stakes Betting Tips’ Verdict
This could prove to be a cake walk for Cue Card but this is a three mile chase not a parade, making odds of 4/6 unattractive. Blaklion is a potential challenger but he will need to be extremely progressive to score off his mark of 154.
- Our preview’s preference is for the veteran MENORAH who provides decent value as the betting tip. He runs well fresh and will love conditions, back him each-way best priced at 10/1 with Bet365, SkyBet or Ladbrokes.
- Remember to check out all the latest free bets and enhanced odds on our JustBookies home page.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.