COLIN Tizzard’s star chaser Thistlecrack will look to make a successful return from his injury layoff in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.
The 5-time Grade 1 winner is one of 11 entries in a high-quality lineup for the National Hunt season’s traditional curtain-raiser, with last year’s winner of the race Bristol De Mai also in the mix.
Paul Nicholls’ progressive chaser Clan Des Obeaux and the Cotswolds Chase Champion Definitly Red make up the principal challengers in what promises to be a thrilling contest for jumps fans.
Despite having not won for two years, Thistlecrack is 2/1 favourite with most bookmakers, and his Assistant Trainer Joe Tizzard is highly optimistic of the horse’s chance of success after overseeing his successful recovery from a tendon strain and stress fracture.
“We’re really happy”, Tizzard said. “Physically he looks super.”
“He gets to run in the race without a penalty because he hasn’t won for a couple of seasons. We’re really pleased with him.”
despite the confidence of connections, Thistlecrack will have to be at his very best to prevail in what is likely to be a bitter struggle
But despite the confidence of connections, Thistlecrack will have to be at his very best to prevail in what is likely to be a bitter struggle with the 2017 victor in the Charlie Hall, Bristol De Mai.
The popular grey, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, defeated Blaklion by 2 and a half lengths to triumph in the race last season, and will return to Wetherby to defend his crown in earnest.
Bristol De Mai is three years younger than Thistlecrack and also comes into affairs having won Haydock’s Betfair Chase in 2017 by an awe-inspiring 57 lengths- a British record in a Grade 1 contest. But he disappointed in December’s King George VI Chase and could only finish 3rd and 2nd in his subsequent two starts- a drop in form later blamed by his trainer on the horse’s previously undetected stomach ulcers.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager to Bristol De Mai’s owners, said that the plan of action this season is for the horse to attempt to repeat the prodigious successes of his last campaign.
Bromley said: “Bristol De Mai ran well on his last run of the season at Aintree. It was nice to get a solid run into him at a high level.”
“The plan at the moment is to go for the Charlie Hall, then hopefully head to the Betfair Chase again.”
However, despite his impressive record over fences, with place finishes in all but three of his 19 career starts, Bristol De Mai may find himself at a disadvantage against Thistlecrack on ground which suits the latter horse far better.
Wetherby have confirmed that, barring any unexpected heavy rain before Saturday, the ground is likely to be ‘good’- an unfortunate situation for mudlark Bristol De Mai. His Charlie Hall win last year and subsequent Betfair Chase triumph were accomplished on ‘soft’ and ‘heavy’ ground respectively, and the horse may struggle to grind out a victory on a quicker surface.
Thistlecrack’s powerful bold-jumping style is highly complemented by ‘good’ ground, as is the speed and agility of 8/1 shot Definitly Red.
The thriving 9-year-old, trained by Brian Ellison, beat Bristol De Mai to win the Cotswolds Chase at Cheltenham earlier this year. Despite finishing 3rd in last season’s renewal of the Charlie Hall, he has improved considerably since and is without doubt a live contender.
Ten-time Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls has two runners in the race in the form of the encouraging 6-year-old Clan Des Obeaux (4/1) and the industrious Black Corton (11/2). Both horses are well capable of putting in good performances, but may find themselves outclassed by rivals who are more experienced in top-level contests.
After a long summer break, this competitive high-class chase is the perfect way to fire the starting gun on what looks set to be a fantastic season’s National Hunt racing.
- The Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase is live on ITV4 at 2:40pm on Saturday 3rd November.
Charlie Hall Chase Odds (CORAL): Thistlecrack 2/1, Bristol De Mai 4/1, Clan Des Obeaux 4/1, Double Shuffle 5/1, Black Corton 11/2, Definitly Red 8/1, Virgilio 10/1, Outlander 10/1, Don Poli 16/1, Alpha Des Obeaux 16/1, Regal Encore 33/1