Britain's highest rated chaser Cyrname headlines 20 entries for the feature £70,000 G2 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (3.20pm) at Wetherby this Saturday, October 31, day two of the bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting.
The bet365 Charlie Hall Chase is the first major staying chase of the season and recent winners of the three-mile showpiece include multiple G1 winners Silviniaco Conti, Cue Card and Bristol De Mai.
Cyrname, the 5/4 favourite with bet365, earned his official BHA rating of 176 thanks to three top class displays at Ascot in 2019. After a 17-length victory in the G1 Ascot Chase, he ended Altior's 19 race unbeaten streak in the G2 1965 Christy Chase at the same track in November.
Cyrname did not replicate that form in two subsequent starts last season, including when a well-beaten second behind stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the G1 King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, his first start over three miles.
The 20 entries for this year's Charlie Hall Chase
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who has won the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase three times with Cheltenham Gold Cup winner See More Business (1999, 2000) and Silviniaco Conti (2012), has also entered the admirably consistent Black Corton.
Last year's winner Ballyoptic is one of two previous bet365 Charlie Hall Chase winners among the entries alongside the Brian Ellison-trained Definitly Red (2018). No horse has captured two editions of the race since Ollie Magern (2005 & 2007), who like Ballyoptic was trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the most successful trainer in the race's history with six wins.
Fellow Gloucestershire handler Kim Bailey is hoping Vinndication can make up into a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender. Vinndication impressed when taking a valuable handicap at Ascot in November and ran a big race under top weight in the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham Festival when last seen, finishing a close fourth.
Bailey, who sent out Harry Topper to land the spoils in 2013, said today: "I have been very happy with Vinndication's progress and he is ready to go to Wetherby.
"He also has an entry in the handicap he won at Ascot last year, but it's just a question of looking and seeing really. We did the same last year.
"He looks really well and I hope he can take another step forward this season. This weekend should tell us more."
Another interesting entry in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase is Sam Spinner (Jedd O'Keeffe). A top-class performer over hurdles, the eight-year-old made a promising start to his chasing career last season with two emphatic victories at Wetherby. He continued his winning run in a G2 event at Doncaster in December before injury ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.
The Storyteller is one of three contenders for leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott, following a comfortable success in a G3 chase at Punchestown on October 14. The Cheltenham Festival winner is joined by the mare Shattered Love and Alpha Des Obeaux.
Other entries to note include Slate House (Colin Tizzard), successful in last season's G1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase, and 2019 G1 Ryanair Chase second Aso (Venetia Williams).
Pat Cooney of bet365 said: "We are delighted to have 20 entries for the race, and Cyrname is a real fascinating contender. At 176, he is the highest rated in the race but will have to prove both stamina and suitability for this left-handed track.
"It will also be good to welcome back the last two previous winners of this race in Ballyoptic and Definitly Red, plus many other familiar talented names.
"The support card on Saturday also has plenty of quality, and as sponsors, bet365 are looking forward to an excellent day's racing at Wetherby."
bet365 Charlie Hall Chase - bet365 prices: 5/4 Cyrname; 5/1 Ballyoptic; 6/1 Sam Spinner, Vinndication; 7/1 La Bague Au Roi; 8/1 Black Corton, Definitly Red; 9/1 The Storyteller; 12/1 Blaklion; 14/1 Mister Whitaker; 16/1 Aso, Might Bite, Slate House; 25/1 Alpha des Obeaux, Bellshill, Shattered Love, 33/1 Aye Right; 40/1 Smooth Stepper; 66/1 Saint Xavier (Each-way 1/5 1,2,3)
Earlier on the card, Lisnagar Oscar (Rebecca Curtis) is out to prove his shock 50/1 success in the G1 Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival was no flash in the pan when he returns in the G2 bet365 Hurdle (2.45pm, 19 entries) over three miles.
Next Destination is an eye-catching entry for Paul Nicholls, having not raced since landing a G1 novice contest at the 2018 Punchestown Festival for Willie Mullins.
Talented mares Roksana (Dan Skelton) and Indefatigable (Paul Webber), plus last season's G1 Challow Novices' Hurdle victor Thyme Hill (Philip Hobbs), are also engaged.
The bet365 Charlie Hall Meeting begins on Friday, October 30, when two Listed prizes take centre stage - the Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase (2.10pm, 27 entries, 2m 3f 85y) and the Weatherbys Hamilton Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle (2.45pm, 10 entries, 2m).
The going at Wetherby is Good to Soft following 10mm of rain over the weekend. Further rain showers are forecast during this week, with otherwise dry days and a very gentle breeze.
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