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bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade Two)
12 of the last 15 winners of this race have been priced at 7/1 or shorter in the betting, indicating that it’s best to look at the horses at the top of the market when trying to find the winner of this Grade 2 contest. Last year’s winner, Irish Cavalier, bucked the trend however, managing to hang on long enough to take the race at 16/1. The 3m1f contest, consisting of 18 fences, can give an early indication as to which horses will line up in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next year. Our expert preview for the 2017 Charlie Hall Chase is below.
Last year’s third placed horse, Cue Card, looks again set to use the Charlie Hall as his return to action. Colin Tizzard’s grand old timer, who will turn twelve next year, travelled well for most of this race last year before fading after the second last. Post race, his trainer said “He just got tired, that’s all”, suggesting that getting the win first time out isn’t the be-all and end-all for his connections. However, the multiple Gold Cup challenger has previously won this race back in 2015. He raced on his favoured soft ground that day (he hasn’t won on ground better than good to soft since 2011) and this could again be key to his chances this time around. The softer the better for this experienced chaser.
Another one who has won on softer ground is the former Gold Cup winner Coneygree. After missing most of last year through injury, he was well beaten by Cue Card on his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. The ground was soaked by rain that day and would have been a real test for any horse – especially one returning from a year off the track. The Bradstock trained front-runner again suffered a setback in his return to racing, when he ‘niggled the bone’, forcing connections to miss the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. He was instead seen next in the Punchestown Gold Cup, producing a decent front running performance before being headed by Djakadam and eventual winner Sizing John. There’s no doubting that he’s a class act, though his injury record is a concern.
Connections of last year’s winner, Irish Cavalier, will again fancy their chances of springing an upset at the West Yorkshire course. The eight-year-old had fitness of his side last time around, returning to action 20 days before he was due to take his place in this race. This could again be key, and it’ll be interesting to see if his connections take the same route this year. He held on gamely at the line to just deny Menorah, but could be judged a little lucky to have bumped into him and Cue Card when he did. Nonetheless, discounting a previous winner of this race would be a risky move. He knows how to win at this course, at this time of year, and could do it once again.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ valiant stayer, Bristol De Mai, looks set for a rematch with Gold Cup opponent, Cue Card. A season geared towards a second tilt at the Gold Cup looks on the cards for the son of Saddler Maker. Although the Ryanair Chase is always a possibility, should connections feel that the Gold Cup is a step too far. He was given a confident ride from Daryl Jacob when landing the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last year. With Jacob allowing him to gallop along out front, he jumped fluently throughout and eased clear from the rest of the field. His clear liking for testing ground came into play that day, impressing his trainer enough to set his sights on the Gold Cup. He was the youngest in the field last year, so his seventh placed finish can be judged as respectable. His connections will again be expecting big things as he grows another year older. This race could be the start of a big year for the grey.