By Harry Allwood
The bet365 Charlie Hall Chase is the first significant three-mile contest of the 2017-2018 jumps season and a high-quality field of ten have been declared.
The popular 11-year-old Cue Card won this Grade Two contest in 2015 and will again team up with Paddy Brennan, who is looking for his third win in the race. Here’s a guide to all the runners:
Trainer: Mark Bradstock. Jockey: Nico de Boinville
General odds: 9-4
Winner of nine of his 13 starts, Coneygree was no match for Cue Card, who had the benefit of a run, when suffering his first defeat over fences in the Betfair Chase last November on his first start for a year. He has not run since finishing third behind Sizing John in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April.
Connections believe the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will “come on for the race”, which is a concern for the ten-year-old who has been blighted with injuries throughout his career.
Trainer: Colin Tizzard. Jockey: Paddy Brennan
General odds: 11-4
Nine-time Grade One winner who was beaten at 8-11 in this race last year when third behind Irish Cavalier.
Joe Tizzard told Racing UK this week that the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner is “more forward” this year, however, as he has had a racecourse gallop at Wincanton.
Officially the highest-rated contender in the field and versatile ground-wise. A big run is expected despite him not being favoured by the weights.
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies. Jockey: Gavin Sheehan
General odds: 7-1
Has run several fine races in defeat since winning the RSA Chase in 2016, most notably when fourth in the Grand National on his final start last season.
There is surely more improvement left in the eight-year-old, who was fourth in this race last year on his seasonal debut, but his main target will be the Grand National again this season and he is unlikely to be primed for this race.
Trainer: Brian Ellison. Jockey: Danny Cook
General odds: 8-1
Pulled up in the Grand National because of a slipped saddle when last seen but had previously produced a career best to win the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster by 14 lengths.
Beat Blaklion over course and distance in the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase last December and his record after a 100-plus day break reads 1121.
The eight-year-old, who will relish the conditions, improved 19lb over fences last season and may not have reached his ceiling.
BRISTOL DE MAI
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies. Jockey: Daryl Jacob
General odds: 8-1
High-class performer on his day and was given a rating of 166 after he won the Grade Two Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock in January on soft ground.
Failed to produce his best form in three starts thereafter, however, and connections have advised the ground will need to be soft for him to take his chance.
Does not have much to find with the main protagonists but this race is likely to be a stepping stone for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 25.
Trainer: Philip Hobbs. Jockey: Richard Johnson
General odds: 20-1
Has not won since he completed a four-timer in a handicap chase at Cheltenham in January 2016 but has run some respectable races in defeat since.
Fell on his seasonal debut at Chepstow last month but his jumping is usually his forte and he is versatile ground-wise. Likely to be sharper for that run but the front runner does have a bit to find with a few of his rivals and has to prove his stamina.
Trainer: Dan Skelton. Jockey: Harry Skelton
General odds: 20-1
Smart hurdler who quickly turned into a useful chaser and was runner-up in two Graded races over fences last season.
Easily won a competitive handicap chase at Aintree on his latest start and won on his seasonal debut last season.
Clearly held in high regard by connections to be pitched into this sort of company but will need to progress to be competitive.
Trainer: Tom George. Jockey: Adrian Heskin
General odds: 25-1
Ran a respectable race on his seasonal debut when second behind Romain De Senam, who has won again since, at Chepstow last month.
Has some decent handicap form next to his name and is only a seven-year-old so there should be more improvement left in him, but he will need to step up on what he has shown so far to be competitive.
Trainer: David Pipe. Jockey: Tom Scudamore
General odds: 25-1
This 154-rated chaser has won three times after a 100-plus day break. Won the Becher Chase at Aintree on his seasonal debut last December before beating Blaklion in the Grade Three Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock.
Finished sixth in the Grand National last time out and that race is likely to be the aim for the eight-year-old again this season.
Trainer: Richard Hobson. Jockey: Adam Wedge
General odds: 33-1
Caused an upset when he won a Grade Three handicap chase on his first start for Rebecca Curtis at Cheltenham in January beating Village Vic.
Finished 15 lengths adrift of Cue Card in the Grade One Ascot Chase in February and will be having his first start for Richard Hobson since leaving the Curtis yard.
Clearly goes well fresh and this is likely to have been the target for some time, but he has a lot to find on form.
Plenty of question marks surround those at the head of the market. Lack of fitness was blamed for Cue Card’s defeat in this race last year and connections have sounded bullish about his chances this week. He looks the one to beat despite having to concede 6lb to Coneygree, who is rated just 3lb inferior to him. Definitly Red has a great record when fresh, albeit in weaker races than this and things did not go to plan for him in the Grand National. He was on the upgrade before that, however, and there should be further improvement left in him this season. He looks a good each-way bet.