The ground was given as good to soft – soft in places – at Wetherby before racing on Friday with the prospect of further rain ahead of today’s feature card of the whole year at the track.
The feature event is the 10-runner Charlie Hall Chase and Vinndication (3.20) has been well supported since it was confirmed on Thursday that Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old would take up this engagement rather than Ascot’s more valuable Sodexho Gold Cup. If Vinndication is to become a realistic Gold Cup contender he must go very close in today’s Grade 2 contest and he must prove once and for all that he is as effective going left-handed as he is right handed.
The selection has never won going left-handed but did run a fine race in the Ultima Handicap Chase under 11st 12lbs at the Festival back in March. Market leader Cyrname has raced right-handed exclusively since April 2018 and he still has stamina to prove. Vinndication is has been backed off the boards since it was confirmed he would go for the Charlie Hall and is 9/4 from 11/2 with William Hill.
Amateur jockey Peter Bryan rode a winner for Rebecca Curtis at Bangor-on-Dee earlier in the week and he takes a valuable 7lbs off the back of Financial Outcome (12.25) who looked all over the winner at Ffos Las on his reappearance but was run out of it close home. The selection 9/4 from 3s with BetVictor – has never been the most consistent of animals bbut this looks an ideal opportunity.
Brief Ambition (1.00) looks sure to appreciate the step up in trip having finished second over 2m on his hurdles debut. The selection – 2/1 with Unibet – was a winner between the flags over 3m and may have most to fear from the flat winner Moon King who is entitled to come on for his first start over timber. A market move would be worth noting.
Whatmore and Django Django are interesting near the foot of the weights in the Sodexho Gold Cup at Ascot but Valtour (3.40) has a course record of 112 and can make a winning reappearance. The owners’ retained jockey Daryl Jacob goes to Wetherby to ride Wholestone, but Aidan Coleman is a more than able deputy and he gets an each way recommendation at 9/1 with William Hill who are betting five places.
At Ayr Sophie Olivia (1.42) has run well fresh in the past and she is taken to make a winning reappearance for Martin Todhunter who had a double here midweek, and whose last four runners have finished 3211. I felt the mare would have won on her last start back in February but for coming down at the last and Sean Quinlan takes over in the saddle. The ew recommendation is 10/1 at Unibet.
There is a wonderful Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on Sunday featuring a host of second season chasers who will have a big say in some of the big handicaps and graded chasers in the months to come. A race to savour but if pressed for a selection it would be Black Op (2.40) who has gone well fresh in the past and this intermediate two-and-a-half miles looks his optimum trip. He also receives weight from Imperial Aura – who did us such a favour at Cheltenham – and Sam Brown who relishes heavy ground.
At Huntingdon Bathiva (2.22) was pulled out of a similar race at Taunton due to the prevailing good to firm ground midweek, but he should be more at home on ground that was described as good on Friday morning with further showers forecast.