Elements gathering for Charlie Hall of fame duel of jump racing’s top horses (From Gazette & Herald)
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Elements gathering for Charlie Hall of fame duel of jump racing’s top horses
DON’T get too excited yet. Just join Wetherby Racecourse chief executive Jonjo Sanderson in crossing your fingers and hoping the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase a week tomorrow bears any kind of resemblance to the early entry list.
Long Run, Unioniste, Auroras Encore, Grands Crus - the West Yorkshire track’s flagship race has the feel of an early season Gold Cup if just a couple of these get on board an A1-bound horsebox.
It’s all very promising. Sanderson though, quite rightly, isn’t counting his chickens just yet.
Being entered, and competing, are two different things.
But what the list does reveal, beyond doubt, is that his track’s three miles and one furlong showpiece is on the rise.
“It’s shaping up to be a very exciting renewal,” he said.
“Unioniste is likely to run. Long Run may come along the way to Haydock and David Pipe has won the race before and has entered Grands Crus. It’s exciting.”
Chief among the hopes of spectators will be the appearance of Long Run, who won the blue riband Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2011 and was third last year.
His owner, Robert Waley-Cohen, has done nothing to dampen expectations either – saying on twitter at the start of the week: “Long Run well forward and did good work on grass. Contemplating running first at Wetherby in Charlie Hall before going to Haydock.”
That would be a huge coup for Wetherby and would surely bring the National Hunt fans flocking to the track.
And that’s the point.
Sanderson added: “It has been a lot of hard work. As we said six years ago (when the track was realigned because of Highways Agency work on the A1), what we had to go through was not of our making.
“We were dealt a hand of cards and we had to play them. It was going to take time and effort to get the conditions of the racecourse back to where they were previously so these bigger yards and better horses would have confidence in it.
“We are there now. We are not resting on our laurels – we have spent another £40,000 this year on the track – but we have been rewarded with an excellent winner last year and some fantastic entries this year.”
Of Unioniste, the winner of last season’s Grade 3 December Gold Cup at Cheltenham, Nicholls – who has captured the Charlie Hall prize with Silviniaco Conti last year and twice with See More Business in 1999 and 2000 – said: “The plan is to run Unioniste. He has done very well over the summer and is in good shape.
“He had done plenty last season, having run through the summer in France, and was probably a bit over the top in the RSA Chase.
“He is year older and wiser now and we are very happy with him, but he has got to step up on what he has accomplished so far.”
North Yorkshire hopes, meanwhile, are likely to rest with Malcolm Jefferson’s Cape Tribulation, who developed into a high-class chaser last season with victories in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby and the Grade 2 Argento Chase at Cheltenham.
The Norton trainer, whose gelding went on to finish fifth in the Gold Cup at the Festival, said: “Cape Tribulation is in good order and will go to Wetherby for the Charlie Hall Chase.
“It’s a nice place to start him off, as he goes well around there and it will be nice ground.
“I thought he had a great season, winning the Rowland Meyrick and the Argento, and if he has as good a one this time around, we will all be very happy.
“We will see how he gets on in the Charlie Hall before we make a plan, but he is going to get an entry in the Hennessy and we will just see from there.”
All of which has Sanderson hoping the race is on the way back to the glory days when the likes of One Man were fabulous winners.
“A race like this needs the prize pot at the end of it,” he said. “Theoretically, it only has a minimum value of £40,000.
“We want to try to attract – in our own little world – the best horses we can and this is doing it.
“The conditions of the race were also very cleverly written in the late 70s or early 80s that gave novices an allowance.
“We have the potential in this race to find a superstar – like Silviniaco Conti last year.
“We are all very excited but, at the moment, it is chickens and eggs.
“Let’s see where we are on Monday morning at the next stage of entries.”
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