Thistlecrack's withdrawal from Saturday's Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby as blown the market wide open, with bookmakers split between three class acts, including the defending champion.
After a hasty reshuffling of the Charlie Hall betting, the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux and Black Corton, and last year's winner Bristol De Mai were all made a best-price of 7/2 - a price we feel can only shorten for our biggest Charlie Hall tip.
The Charlie Hall Chase is a Grade 2 run over 3m at Wetherby and worth £100,000. It's named after Yorkshire trainer Charlie Hall, who was champion jumps trainer in 1956, and is used as a starting point for high-level staying chasers. No trainer has won it more times than Nigel Twiston-Davies, who won with Bristol De Mai last year.
Bristol De Mai held off stablemate Blaklion to win this race last year and is back to defend his honour, in a bid to give Twiston-Davies a record sixth Charlie Hall Chase win.
After his Wetherby win in 2017, it was over the Pennines to the Red Rose County for the Betfair Chase at Haydock, which he landed by a massive 57 lengths in attritional going.
Although he failed to win after that, he had a wind operation and was last seen valiantly chasing home Might Bite in the Betway Bowl at Aintree in April. Bristol De Mai is a best price of 7/2 with William Hill to complete the double.
His fellow favourite, Clan Des Obeaux (7/2 Bet 365), put in his best run of last year when stepped up to 3m1f at Aintree. He finished third to Might Bite and Bristol De Mai, and on that score, he remains unexposed at the trip. There is the distinct possibility he may be rerouted to the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal, if the ground is not soft enough in Yorkshire.
Those looking for value should follow the fortunes of Bryony Frost, the 23-year-old sensation who will be bidding to make it a big-race double aboard Black Corton (7/2 888 Sport) after her success with Frodon in the Old Roan Chase last Sunday.
According to assistant trainer Harry Derham, Black Corton’s participation depends on a schooling session this week; however the 7/2 available with 888 Sport is well worth taking now as the field will probably reduce significantly in size after Friday's declarations and the 7/2 will be long gone.
Black Corton, a prolific winner last season, was Frost’s first Grade 1 winner last December, and trainer Paul Nicholls is expecting much of the same from the seven-year-old.
Trainer Dan Skelton, who recently broke Martin Pipe’s record for the fastest century of winners in a season, saddles Virgilio with the nine-year-old looking well overpriced at 7/1 with William Hill.
After being hampered at the first, and then falling at the sixth (Bechers), in last season’s Grand National, Virgilio has bounced straight back with another win at Aintree (his fourth). He also scored an impressive victory in the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter.
Virgilio is scheduled to be ridden this Saturday by Bridget Andrews, rather than by his regular winning pilot Harry Skelton, which is an interesting move. Andrews’ only ever leg up on Virgilio ended with him being pulled-up at Doncaster, but Andrews does have a good win record at Wetherby for the Skelton team, which may well be their thinking?
Bridget Andrews landed her first win at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, when driving Mohaayed home in a driving finish to the County Hurdle, and will be hungry for more success on the big stage on Saturday.
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