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Cyrname team facing tough decisions after Wetherby defeat

Paul Nicholls has admitted he is approaching last chance saloon with Cyrname after the talented but frustrating nine-year-old was pulled up for the third successive race when seeking back-to-back victories in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Since winning the race 12 months ago, Cyrname was subsequently pulled up in the King George at Kempton and in an outing at Ascot.

The Berkshire track was the scene of arguably his finest hour, when inflicting a first defeat over obstacles on Nicky Henderson’s Altior on very testing ground in November 2019.

Cyrname famously beat Altior at Ascot in 2019
Cyrname famously beat Altior at Ascot in 2019 (Simon Cooper/PA)

Cyrname’s victory in last year’s Charlie Hall is his only win in six further races since that day and despite a second wind operation over the summer, Nicholls feels it is still his breathing that is catching him out.

Despite racing keenly and jumping exuberantly for three-quarters of the race, when Harry Skelton breezed by on Shan Blue before the turn for home, Cyrname had no answer and was eventually pulled up before the last.

Shan Blue then fell at the third last when well clear, allowing Fusil Raffles to claim success.

Paul Nicholls will consider the options with Cyrname's owner
Paul Nicholls will consider the options with Cyrname’s owner (Adam Davy/PA)

“There’s not a lot more we can do, it’s been an issue for all of his career and we’ve got away with it for a while,” said Nicholls.

“Sometimes when you get in front, you can sit and keep filling his lungs up like today. They know how to take him on and Harry (Skelton) took him on far enough from home and there was nothing in the tank then.

“Harry (Cobden) says he just goes drunk on him because he can’t breathe. It’s a nightmare really because there isn’t too much more we can do.

“He jumps and travels and he’s got all that there, it’s just when he needs that bit of effort, today he was in trouble.”

Nicholls believes retirement could be a possible option for the Johnny de la Hey-owned gelding.

“If he was going to run again it’d be at an easy track, like the Peterborough Chase (at Huntingdon) or something, or we’d just gracefully retire him.

“I know they (the owners) won’t want to see him running like that, a decision will be made in the next few days. He’s fit and well and he can always do something else, it’s just a shame.”

Fusil Raffles prevails in eventful Charlie Hall

Fusil Raffles claimed victory in a dramatic renewal of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

All the attention ahead of the Grade Two contest was on defending champion Cyrname, who was a fine winner last year before his season tailed off and he underwent wind surgery over the summer.

Sent off an 85-40 chance, Cyrname took up his usual prominent position through the early stages and was still in front until Harry Skelton decided to kick on aboard 2-1 favourite Shan Blue at the turn for home.

The second-season chaser quickly built up a healthy lead only to get the third-last all wrong and crash out.

That gave the rest of the field a second bite of the cherry and it was Fusil Raffles and Daryl Jacob who seized the advantage, jumping the penultimate fence in the lead.

He then cleared the last in fine style to secure a four-and-a-half-length success over Kitty’s Light with Clondaw Castle back in third.

Cyrname was pulled up before the last and Nicholls reported his charge to have suffered breathing issues again.

He said: “He choked again and once he choked, that was it. One minute he was going and the next he wasn’t.”

Dan Skelton was philosophical after Shan Blue fell with the race seemingly at his mercy.

“The horse is all right, Harry’s all right. Good jumpers, when they have a fall, they have a bad fall. It wasn’t very nice but he’s OK, he’d have hacked up,” he said.

“The fence is in the wrong spot, what can you do? It’s happened to Ruby Walsh. These things happen. I was delighted with him, we know he’s a very, very good horse.

“He’s in the Hennessy and he’ll have an entry in the King George. We’ve just got to see, but it was terribly frustrating.

“Everyone’s all right, it’s just racing. One minute you’re winning a two-mile race with Molly Ollys Wishes, the next minute that happens.

“You can’t dwell on it, the horse is OK, we know he’s a good horse. We’re missing a trophy today, but at least we’re not missing a horse.”

Fusil Raffles comes away from the last clear
Fusil Raffles comes away from the last clear (Tim Goode/PA)

Jacob was delighted with Fusil Raffles’ victory, but admitted he thought he was booked for second at best when Shan Blue went for home.

He said: “He (Shan Blue) quickened after the turn from home and I thought he’d gone unless he didn’t stay, so at that stage I rode to finish second.

“Unfortunately Harry’s horse fell three out and I can tell you it was a long way to the winning line.

“I’ve no doubt about him (Fusil Raffles), he gets the trip well but I need to teach him the discipline of coming back and relaxing under the bridle rather than going forwards in the bridle.

“(It was) unfortunate circumstances, turning in I thought the winner had flown unless he just didn’t stay, but turning in I thought second was in my grasp. I’m very proud of the horse, I think he will have learnt an awful lot from today’s experience.

“He’s used to attacking his fences, going forward over a shorter trip, whereas today the pace of the race was slightly slower. He got the hang of it a little bit towards the end of the race. He’s all heart, he digs deep for you when he has to.”

Indefatigable delivers in bet365 Hurdle

Paul Webber’s Indefatigable became the third mare in five years to win the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

Registered as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, the race gives the top-class staying hurdlers an early chance to get back in action and this time it was former champion Paisley Park who attracted most of the pre-race attention.

While Emma Lavelle’s nine-year-old hit his customary flat spot going down the back straight, he did stay on over the last quarter of a mile to finish a respectable third, but the bird had flown by then.

Daryl Jacob had ridden a patient race on Indefatigable, who herself had won at the Cheltenham Festival in 2020, and took up the running at the second last.

However, Harry Skelton had stalked her into the straight on Proschema, who briefly looked to be travelling better.

Webber had sent Indefatigable to Pontefract for a race on the Flat, which she won, earlier this month, though and that fitness told as she came away to win two and three-quarter lengths with two and a half lengths back to Paisley Park.

Roksana last year and the Fergal O’Brien-trained Colin’s Sister in 2017 are the other mares to recently take the prize.

Webber said: “We thought we’d stay wide as the ground was a bit better and it suits her too. It couldn’t have worked out any better.

“It depends on the weather entirely what we do. If it was dry she could go to Newbury for the Long Distance Hurdle, but she’s a mare and I must try to win a Grade One with her.

“It will probably be too wet by the Long Walk in December and the Ascot plan might be the Ascot Stakes in June. She just needs another run to get a handicap mark.

“She does thrive in the spring and summer. You could probably do the Mares’ or the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, maybe Punchestown, then you have still got six weeks before Ascot.”

Barry Fenton, Lavelle’s partner and assistant, said of Paisley Park: “Aidan (Coleman) said that he was a little bit rusty off the back of a disappointing run last time.

Indefatigable jumps the last clear of Proschema
Indefatigable jumps the last clear of Proschema (Tim Goode/PA)

“Through the race he said he didn’t feel 100 per cent and he thought, jumping the fourth last down the back, that that could be it and he might even pull him up.

“Then he said once he got a bit of clear water, he’s started to pick up and he’s run a good race then, but the race had gone.

“I think it’s looking like we’ll head for Newbury, that’s what Aidan said, he feels we should go that route and hopefully we’ll get the end result there and we can decide whether we go chasing or if we’re a stayers’ horse.

“If he comes out of this race all right and has a good prep, he’ll go to Newbury with no excuses and he’ll have to do the job there.”

Coleman said: “He was a bit rusty. On his last two runs last year he was pulled up at Aintree and had a very hard race at Cheltenham and he was remembering that a bit.

“It was looking like it was going to be a disaster turning in, but from the third last to the line he’s actually finished really strong. Those are the positives.

“He not the horse he’s been showing us at home at the moment, but I think he’ll be back with that run under his belt and a better experience he can go forward.”

Molly Ollys Wishes claims stylish success on Wetherby return

Molly Ollys Wishes stamped her class on what looked a decent field in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby.

Dan and Harry Skelton have enjoyed a good start to the season and this seven-year-old looks like having another good campaign.

A Listed winner last term, trainer Dan Skelton had entered her in the West Yorkshire Hurdle on the same card to take what he termed “the Roksana route”, after the recently retired top-class mare Skelton trained to win that race last season.

However, Skelton ultimately preferred to keep Molly Ollys Wishes to her own sex, even though the trip may have been short of her best, and with that in mind Harry Skelton kicked on before the turn for home.

In truth the race was soon over, with the 3-1 favourite coming home five and a half lengths clear of Miranda.

“That was brilliant, magic really. I just thought we’d try her over two (miles) because when I looked at the entries on Monday and saw that the West Yorkshire hurdle was filling up, I just thought she was going to have a really hard race on her first time out,” said Dan Skelton.

“She’s best just rolling on over two, you can get in a bit of a muddle when you try to restrict her. It just worked out really well, Harry’s given her a great ride.

“She was always going to Kempton on the 22nd for the Listed over three (miles), I don’t see any reason to change.

“We’ve always hoped she could go down the Roksana route, last year it actually suited her that Roksana was around because it was a year too soon and we couldn’t send her down it. She’s now ready for it.

“I can imagine her going to Kempton, we might try the Long Walk and then the Warfield at a Ascot. That’s her Gold Cup.”

Geryville absolutely bolted up on his British debut for Micky Hammond in the bet365 Handicap Chase.

Only five, he was dismissed in the betting and sent off a 40-1 chance in a field of 11.

He jumped like an old hand throughout for Alain Cawley, and scooted clear to win by 12 lengths.

“We’ve always liked him. Peter Jones, who sent him over from France, said he was a nice horse. He came over in June and we thought he’d do well over here,” said Hammond.

“We were hoping he’d run a nice race, the ground has been so firm that we haven’t even schooled him over a fence, but he’s jumped a French-style hurdle on a surface and he’s taken to it very well. He jumped a bit big early on but he can win again.”

Skelton hoping to follow Shan Blue route with Ashtown Lad

Champion jockey Harry Skelton wasted no time adding to his 1,000 winners as he doubled up on his next two rides at Wetherby – courtesy of Ashtown Lad and Unexpected Party.

Skelton reached his four-figure career milestone at Stratford on Thursday, and projected then that he would be getting started on his second thousand as soon as possible.

True to his word, less than 24 hours later, he struck first in division one of the bet365 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and then in the bet365 Novices’ Chase, both for his brother Dan.

Ashtown Lad was following the example of the yard’s subsequent Grade One winner Shan Blue, who had won the same race last year.

In the absence of the highly-regarded Ahoy Senor, the field was reduced to four – and Skelton had the 6-4 winner in front and jumping well throughout.

Ashtown Lad was always moving more fluently at and between the fences than odds-on favourite and eventual third Barbados Buck’s, on the way to a decisive near five-length success from Buzz De Turcoing.

The winning trainer is already plotting future targets – with Kempton’s Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, also won by Shan Blue last season, perhaps on the agenda.

“He jumped lovely – the more jumps there are and the further he can go, the better,” he said.

“You can see why I waited until he was seven to go chasing – he needed a lot of time to get it all together. Marathon trips will be perfect for him next year.

“We always knew that he would be a three-mile chaser, and we’re delighted with him. That experience will do him the world of good – that was the first time he’s jumped fences on grass.

Unexpected Party and Harry Skelton won division one of the bet365 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby
Unexpected Party and Harry Skelton won division one of the bet365 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“I was always half in my mind thinking of the Shan Blue route. Me, Harry and (owner) Darren (Yates) had half made that plan, and I don’t see any real reason to back out at the moment.”

Unexpected Party also won in the style of a promising horse as he justified favouritism at 11-8, on just his third career start.

Skelton has a high opinion of the six-year-old grey, but explained he has not been easy to train.

“He’s a horse that’s always shown ability – it’s very frustrating that it’s taken as long as it has,” he said.

“He was a very fragile horse when he was younger.

“At Bangor (first time out last month), he must have been as fit as I was – because I thought he’d run all right, and he clearly blew up!

“The step up in trip is a big help. I think the race has fallen apart…there’s only two horses have gone away from the field, turning in. But you can’t do more than what he’s done.

“Two years ago, when he was a store horse, he looked like he might be really handy. But things haven’t quite gone his way (since) – maybe that’s the start of something more.”

The Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase was one of two Listed features on day one of the track’s Charlie Hall meeting, with Good Boy Bobby a determined winner under Daryl Jacob for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Wearing the all-green silks of Jacob’s retained owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, Good Boy Bobby was returning to winning form after seven efforts over fences and hurdles which have yielded a string of placings since his last success 12 months ago.

The eight-year-old was prominent throughout, as he often is, and saw off his rivals one by one to win by a length and a half as the 5-2 favourite, from the staying-on Cracking Destiny.

Jacob said: “He was very good today – Nigel and his team have done a great job with him  over the summer.

“Since he’s come back in, he’s been big and bold and fresh.

“I suppose he disappointed us an awful lot last year – but it’s nice that he’s come out and won a really nice competitive pot like that.

Good Boy Bobby and Daryl Jacob lead the way winning in the Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase at Wetherby
Good Boy Bobby and Daryl Jacob lead the way winning in the Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase at Wetherby (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“Last year, I thought his second behind Master Tommytucker (at Haydock) would lead on to a really good year – but he lost his form and confidence a bit.”

Harbour Lake made a winning debut in the closing bet365 Novices’ Hurdle, scoring in the famous colours of the late Trevor Hemmings.

Alan King’s five-year-old is just the second horse to win in the hugely successful yellow, green and white, since Hemmings died earlier this month.

Harbour Lake belied his 9-1 starting price with a stylish performance under Tom Cannon to prevail by almost five lengths from Guardino, and racing manager Mick Meagher was impressed.

He said: “We thought he was a nice horse last year. But he had a little setback, and we ended up never running him after being bought for point-to-pointing.

“Kingy’s liked him from day one. If we’d finished in the first four or five today we’d have been happy – but he’s beaten the right three, up there in the betting that finished behind him.”

Porticello puts down juvenile marker at Wetherby

Porticello towered over his rivals in the paddock and proved their superior in the finish as he bagged Listed honours on his British debut in the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby.

Gary Moore’s imposing new recruit had to concede 5lb and upwards all round as the winner of a conditions hurdle at Auteuil six months ago.

But despite some awkward leaps en route, the slightly uneasy 6-4 favourite made light of his task to prevail by almost four lengths from Genuflex.

Jamie Moore, riding for his father, had Porticello in behind but close to a moderate pace before forging to the front in the straight and then repelling a packed field of challengers spread across the track from two out.

The form of his Auteuil victory was well-advertised when the runner-up in that race, Magistrato, also made a winning British debut at Chepstow this month.

After Porticello’s victory in a race which often pinpoints a contender for major juvenile prizes later in the season, the winning jockey admitted that – in this case – he is optimistic about even longer-term prospects.

“He’s given weight away to winners in a Listed race, so you’ve got to be happy with the performance,” said Moore.

“He’s still a bit of a baby, so I’m hoping he’ll progress from here.”

Porticello already has the appearance of a future chaser, although he remains 16-1 favourite with Paddy Power for the Triumph Hurdle at next year’s Cheltenham Festival .

Moore added: “He’s a big, strong lad. He just took time to acclimatise during the race today.

“When he was in tight he was a bit messy over his hurdles.

“Maybe in time a fence might just suit him, (and) he’ll bend his back a bit more.

“I’ll see where dad and (owner) Ollie (Harris) want to go next. I’m sure they’ll have a plan for him – but he’ll probably be more of a four- or five-year-old type.”

Moore needed to be strong in the saddle as Porticello knuckled down well after the last, and the jockey received a two-day suspension from the stewards for using his whip above the permitted level.

Josh Moore is recovering after his back operation
Josh Moore is recovering after his back operation (Nigel French/PA)

He had an update, meanwhile, on his brother Josh – who is recovering from a back operation following his fall at Plumpton this month.

“He came out (of hospital) last night,” said Moore, who suffered a similar injury himself last year and was out of action for three months.

“He’s over the worst of it – it’s a long road to recovery, but he works hard in his recoveries.

“He’s used to it these days, and it’s great that he got home.”

Paisley Park ready for Wetherby return

Emma Lavelle reports Paisley Park ready to make his seasonal debut in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby.

How the nine-year-old performs in Saturday’s Grade Two is set to determine which course the Wiltshire handler takes with him this season.

Paisley Park has been in training longer than usual before his first start of the campaign, and Lavelle is just hoping the ground will be suitable for her former Stayers Hurdle hero.

“I couldn’t be happier with our preparation,” she said.

“We got him in earlier, and hence he’s ready to run earlier. I’d love to run him.

“Hopefully this will direct us for the season.

“It is very much the plan to run – but if we don’t think the ground is soft enough, then I won’t run him. I won’t take a chance.

“I’m absolutely delighted with him, and he’s ready to go.”

Thomas Darby represents Olly Murphy
Thomas Darby represents Olly Murphy (Mike Egerton/PA)

Olly Murphy is excited to be giving Thomas Darby just his second run over three miles.

The eight-year-old was a fine third behind Thyme Hill on his first start at the trip, in the Grade One Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in April.

“He’s in good nick and he’s ready to start the season off,” said Murphy.

“Obviously it’s only his second run at three miles, so he’s very unexposed over the trip. It looks a lovely starting point.

“Paisley Park is going to be hard to beat. It’s a competitive renewal, but I’m looking forward to him running.”

Proschema runs for Dan Skelton
Proschema runs for Dan Skelton (Nigel French/PA)

Dan Skelton believes the step up to three miles will suit Proschema – who is also going up in class.

“He’s got it to do on ratings,” said the Alcester trainer.

“I’m looking forward to going three miles with him. I think he’ll like the track – I think he’ll outrun his handicap mark.

“It’s a very strong race. But I’ve always wanted to go three miles with him, and this will give us a good idea.”

The sole Irish raider is Charles Byrnes’ Run For Oscar, who tries his hand in Pattern company following an emphatic success in a handicap hurdle at Listowel last month.

“Run For Oscar has gone up considerably in the handicap at home, and we just thought this would be a good opportunity to dip our toe into graded company,” said County Limerick-based Byrnes.

“I think as long as the ground stays on the better side, three miles should be about right for him because he seems to stay well enough.

“On ratings, he is not far off most of them – aside from the top one or two. I am not saying he will be good enough to win or anything, but I think he could run a big race.”

Master Tommytucker is back over hurdles at Wetherby
Master Tommytucker is back over hurdles at Wetherby (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Paul Nicholls is running Grade Two-winning chaser Master Tommytucker over the smaller obstacles for the first time since April 2018.

“I’ve been wanting for a while to try him at three miles, and this looks an ideal opportunity over hurdles because it is hard enough to find races for him over fences off his current mark of 160,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He has to start somewhere, and it obviously helps that he isn’t lumbered with any penalties. The return to hurdles will not do him any harm, and I have a feeling he is crying out for this step up in trip. I did the same a few years ago with Tidal Bay, and he won it. I expect Tommy to be competitive.”

Nicholls is hoping the rain falls to aid Miranda’s cause in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing plenty of rain for Miranda, who has been a big success story for the Owners Group,” he said.

“She has won five times for them, is very fit, having done plenty of work ahead of this race – and looks to have a nice chance.”

Molly Ollys Wishes takes on Miranda
Molly Ollys Wishes takes on Miranda (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Molly Ollys Wishes comes down in trip, but Skelton senses it is the right place to begin her campaign.

“Two miles is very short for her, but I feel it’s a good start to the season,” said Skelton.

“I feel we can build on this run – but Wetherby is a big, galloping track, so she isn’t going to be out-speeded all the way. There are going to be speedier horses – but she’s a hardy, tough mare and will give her running, that’s for sure.”

The Nicky Henderson-trained Marie’s Rock and Alan King’s Her Indoors are among others in a competitive field.

Nicholls confident as Cyrname bids to retain Charlie Hall crown

Paul Nicholls is delighted with Cyrname’s preparation as the nine-year-old bids for back-to-back victories in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Cyrname disappointed on his only two subsequent starts last term – but has since had wind surgery which the Ditcheat handler feels has done the trick.

A big run is expected at the West Yorkshire track on Saturday, when victory would make Cyrname the seventh horse to win the race twice – and the first since Ollie Magern in 2005 and 2007.

“He is back at Wetherby to defend his crown in the Charlie Hall Chase after a cracking success in this race a year ago,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He looked right back to his best in beating Vinndication that day, then under-performed twice subsequently before we gave him a wind op. I’m convinced that Cyrname is at his peak when fresh, so this race was the obvious choice to kickstart his season.

“He looks great, and it’s encouraging that Scott Marshall – who rides him every day – says he is in a better place than this time last year. The flat track at Wetherby certainly suits Cyrname, who is clear top on ratings. This is the day that matters for him.”

Dan Skelton makes no secret he has been targeting second-season novice Shan Blue at this race for some time, too.

“This is the race we’ve always been coming for,” he said. “I’m excited now it’s here.

“It’s a first step out of novice company, which isn’t going to be easy. But we’re very happy, and this has always been the plan.

“We’re up against Cyrname and Clondaw Castle that have been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Cyrname’s got the biggest T-shirt.

Shan Blue (left) steps out of novice company in the Charlie Hall Chase
Shan Blue (left) steps out of novice company in the Charlie Hall Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“So you don’t know until you’ve done it. But the one thing I will say is he was a very. very good novice. The novices have to step forward and take on the older horses – (so) you’d want to step forward with one of the better novices rather than one of the middle ones.

“Ultimately if he can’t step forward, which ones of them can?

“I’m not saying ‘yeah, we’ve got to go and win for it to be any type of result’ – of course not. But I want to see him bang there, giving them all some trouble.

“He’s fit, he’s won at the track. There’s no excuses like that.

“This has always been the plan. There’ll be no ‘oh, he blew up’, none of that. He’ll tighten up for the race, and he’ll improve a fraction, of course he will – but which ones don’t?

“But ultimately, he’s got to run well…and he will. If he’s in Cyrname’s league, then great; if not, then we’ll have to re-plan.”

Clondaw Castle has improved for the step up to three miles, as his trainer Tom George expected. The nine-year-old won the valuable Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton in February, and was second to Clan Des Obeaux in the Betway Bowl at Aintree in April.

George believes there is better come.

“He showed three miles is his trip in the big handicap chase at Kempton. He ran very well at Aintree but he got a bit tired that day,” he said.

“It was a combination of things, but he was second in a Grade One and was the only horse who could go with Clan Des Obeaux that day. No horse in the country would have beaten Clan Des Obeaux that day.

“I don’t think he was at his peak at Aintree. I think there’s still a lot more to come.”

Fusil Raffles tries three miles for the first time
Fusil Raffles tries three miles for the first time (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Fusil Raffles goes into unknown territory as he moves up in distance. The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old shaped well on his seasonal debut when a staying-on second to Bravemansgame at Newton Abbot recently.

“We are looking forward to trying Fusil Raffles over a longer trip for the first time,” said Anthony Bromley, racing manager to owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

“Obviously it looks a tall order for him against Cyrname. But the Newton Abbot race three weeks ago (when second to Bravemansgame) will have brought him on fitness-wise, and we felt it was worth a roll of the dice.”

Carlisle objective for Ahoy Senor after Wetherby defection

Ahoy Senor is expected to make his debut over fences on Sunday after he was a late withdrawal at Wetherby on Friday due to the ground.

Trainer Lucinda Russell had entered the six-year-old – who was last seen beating Bravemansgame in the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April – for the bet365 Novices’ Chase at the West Yorkshire venue.

But while enough rain fell overnight to turn the ground good to soft, good in places, Russell felt conditions would not be suitable for her stable star’s chasing bow.

He is now set to run in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase on Sunday, although the winning point to pointer will be taking on more seasoned rivals in the likes of Fiddlerontheroof, Espoir De Romay and Silver Hallmark.

Russell said: “I walked the course and it’s good to soft, good in a couple of places and it’s not for him.

“Mighty Thunder will be fine on it tomorrow (in the Charlie Hall Chase), but it’s not for a soft ground horse.

“He’s declared for Carlisle and that’s the plan, provided he’s OK in the morning. It’s quite a high level, but I just want to get him started.”

Porticello faces Listed test on British debut at Wetherby

Gary Moore’s French import Porticello must concede weight all round in the Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby.

A winner of a valuable Auteuil event for his former trainer David Cottin,  Porticello beat Magistrato – who has since joined Paul Nicholls and was an easy winner at Chepstow on his British debut.

Moore, sending a rare runner north at this stage of the season from his Sussex base, will certainly know where he stands after Friday’s Listed contest.

“Porticello is a great, big horse and I can’t believe he was able to win at Auteuil in April as a three-year-old,” said Moore.

“He goes nicely, although he would not be the flashiest work horse. Hopefully, he shows more on the racecourse than he does at home.

“He was pretty expensive, and the form of his win in France obviously looks pretty good. I just hope he lives up to his reputation.”

Donald McCain’s Sacre Pierre is already a dual winner. After his promising successes at Uttoxeter and Cartmel, he is the only runner in the field to have won twice over hurdles.

Donald McCain has his string in great form
Donald McCain has his string in great form (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The ground won’t bother him if it rains – whatever it is, he’ll be fine,” said McCain.

“He’s grand. He’s only a little fella, there’s no point trying to carry more penalties. I don’t know if he’s up to this standard or not, but we may as well find out.

“He’s still a little bit immature. He’s been running a bit green, but if you’ve got a juvenile that wins a couple early doors this is the obvious place to go.

“He didn’t cost much, so to be running in a Listed race at this stage of the season is nice for his owners.

“He’s a straightforward little horse who would probably appreciate a fairer track like Wetherby.”

Dan Skelton’s Too Friendly and Alan King’s Oceanline meet again here, with the latter having a length and a quarter to find from their run at Stratford this month.

Ahoy Senor (right) is slated to make his chasing debut
Ahoy Senor (right) is slated to make his chasing debut (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Genuflex, Keepyourdreamsbig, Addosh and course-and-distance winner Battle Angel complete the eight.

There is a very interesting novice chase on the card – which sees Paul Nicholls’ Barbados Buck’s, rated 143 over hurdles, clash with Lucinda Russell’s Grade One winner Ahoy Senor.

The latter has already missed one intended engagement this season because of quick ground, so Russell will be praying the forecast overnight rain falls.

A second Listed event on the card is the Cash Out At bet365 Handicap Chase – with Nicholls’ Magic Saint set to carry top weight on his first outing since a wind operation.

The Big Bite has always gone well fresh
The Big Bite has always gone well fresh (Nigel French/PA)

Bobby Renton winner Whoshotthesherrif is back over the same course and distance – and Henry Oliver holds high hopes for The Big Bite, who goes well fresh.

“The Big Bite has had a similar preparation to this time last year and wouldn’t be far off where he was before winning at Aintree,” said Oliver.

“Johnny (Burke, jockey) schooled him last week and he jumped lovely. He goes well fresh, and I would be very hopeful of a big run.

“This trip around Wetherby for a first start of the season will be absolutely ideal, although we have it in our minds to try him over further this season.

“We felt it was worth giving him an entry in the Ladbrokes Trophy, just to keep our options open, and we’ll see how things unfold.”

Webber wants Wetherby to stay dry for Indefatigable

Paul Webber is one trainer who is hoping a deluge stays away from Wetherby before the bet365 Hurdle – in which he is set to run Indefatigable.

A Cheltenham Festival winner in 2020, Indefatigable had a recent run on the Flat at Pontefract – and it was a successful mission, as she stayed on well to win by half a length.

Saturday’s Grade Two, known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, is set to feature former Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park – but with her allowances, Webber’s mare will receive plenty of weight.

“I hope we don’t get too much rain, but the intention is to run,” said Webber.

“We managed to get a run on the Flat into her, and the thinking behind that was that in the past she’s tended to be better in the spring.

“This year we wanted to crank her up a little bit earlier, so we went to Pontefract, which worked out great, and hopefully it’s a springboard to the autumn.

“Looking at her rating and given the allowances she gets, she’s not far away from the best of them.”

Cyrname takes on six rivals as he bids for Charlie Hall double

Cyrname will face six rivals when he attempts to win back-to-back renewals of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls’ nine-year-old was a comfortable winner of the race last year but was pulled up in two subsequent starts and underwent a wind operation during the summer break.

Nicholls is looking for a fifth win in the race and should he be successful, Cyrname would join some truly great names as a dual winner of the race, with the likes of Wayward Lad, One Man and Nicholls’ own See More Business having doubled up.

Dan Skelton has started the season in good form and he runs Shan Blue, a Grade One winner as a novice last season.

The second-highest rated runner in the field is Tom George’s Clondaw Castle, who progressed through the handicap ranks to finish second in a Grade One at Aintree last April.

Mighty Thunder runs for Lucinda Russell. Winner of the Scottish National last season, Russell has opted to run in a Graded race first time out rather than carry a big weight in a handicap.

Nicky Henderson, without a win in the race since Marlborough in 2002, is represented by Fusil Raffles, who has already had one outing this season when a respectable second to Bravemansgame attempting to concede 12lb.

Kitty's Light (right) went down narrowly in the bet365 Gold Cup
Kitty’s Light (right) went down narrowly in the bet365 Gold Cup (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Christian Williams runs Kitty’s Light, only five but second in the bet365 Gold Cup last season and narrowly beaten on his return to action at Chepstow.

The field is completed by a locally-trained runner, Phil Kirby’s Top Ville Ben, winner of the Rowland Meyrick at the track in 2019.

Paisley Park has been declared for the bet365 Hurdle, better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, with Emma Lavelle hoping the forecast rain materialises.

Winner of the Long Walk last season, he was a gallant third when trying to regain his Stayers’ Hurdle but pulled up at Aintree.

Thomas Darby was a fine third in the Aintree race and looks a worthy challenger as does Master Tommytucker, who is unexposed over the smaller obstacles.

Ask Dillon, Proschema, Slate House and Indefatigable all run as does the Charles Byrnes-trained Run For Oscar in a field of eight.

There are seven in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle including Miranda, Molly Ollys Wishes, Fiveandtwenty and Marie’s Rock.

Clondaw Castle ready to kick off campaign in Charlie Hall

Tom George reports Clondaw Castle to be ready to return to action in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday.

The Slad trainer has had this Grade Two contest over an extended three miles in mind for a while as the gelding’s seasonal debut.

George feels ground conditions will be in Clondaw Castle’s favour as the nine-year-old sticks to three miles following two big runs over that trip in the latter part of the last term.

He won the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton in February and was then second to Clan Des Obeaux in the Grade One Betway Bowl at Aintree.

“He’s in great form. I’m very happy with him. This has been the plan for a while,” said George.

“Hopefully the rain stays away and they don’t throw too much water on the place. He likes good ground so it looks like everything could be in his favour.

“If the old Cyrname turns up, we’re a lost cause but if he doesn’t we’re there to pounce. I think we’re still heading in the right direction and there’s a lot more to come.”

Cyrname lifted this prize 12 months ago but was pulled up on his only other two starts last term.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old has something to prove but he is reported to be in good shape.

“The plan is to go to Wetherby. It has been from the start of the season. He’s training well. His record fresh is very good so we’re hopeful of a big run,” Nicholls’ assistant Harry Derham told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s got a bit to prove after last season. He’s a talked-about horse. He looks in good nick. We think he’ll run well but he has to go and do it on the track.

“Last year he loved Wetherby. It’s a flat, galloping track and a fair one, so hopefully there are no worries on that score at all.”

Cyrname tops Charlie Hall contenders

Last year’s winner Cyrname heads eight entries for the Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old is, however, on something of a retrieval mission on Saturday.

Having looked right back to his best in Yorkshire last October, Cyrname failed to complete in two subsequent outings – at Kempton in the King George and at Ascot.

Dan Skelton has started the season in good form with notable wins for Third Time Lucki and Allmankind over the weekend, and he has been aiming second-season chaser Shan Blue at this race for some time.

A talented novice, he won the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day and was second in two other Grade Ones.

Skelton said: “Shan Blue is in great order, and the Charlie Hall Chase has been on his radar since the beginning of the season.

“He also has an entry in the handicap at Ascot, but the full intention is to run at Wetherby provided the ground is OK, because he has a good record around there.

“Cyrname has obviously achieved far more than we have in the past – but that was the past, and this is the present. Young horses have to take on the older horses at some point.

“It won’t be easy, of course it won’t. But that is where we are with this horse, and I am delighted he is able to take part in races like this.”

Clondaw Castle won a big prize at Kempton last season
Clondaw Castle won a big prize at Kempton last season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Tom George’s Clondaw Castle brings solid handicap form to the table, and was also second at the top level to Clan Des Obeaux at Aintree in April – albeit beaten 26 lengths.

Scottish National winner Mighty Thunder, Nicky Henderson’s Fusil Raffles, Phil Kirby’s Top Ville Ben, the Christian Williams-trained Kitty’s Light and Henry Daly’s mare Chilli Filli complete the list.

The bet365 Hurdle, better known as the West Yorkshire Hurdle, has attracted 12 entries – including Paisley Park.

Paisley Park could turn up at Wetherby on Saturday
Paisley Park could turn up at Wetherby on Saturday (Julian Herbert/PA)

Last season was up and down for Emma Lavelle’s stable star, winning the Long Walk but ending the season pulled up behind Thyme Hill at Aintree.

“Paisley Park is good, and the idea is to start off at Wetherby provided the ground is on the slow side,” said Lavelle.

“He has been in brilliant form since he has come back in. He seems really well in himself and has done everything we have asked of him.

“He came in a little earlier this season with a view to getting him out earlier, and he is definitely ready to run this weekend as long as the ground is suitable.

“There is rain forecast later in the week, so fingers crossed it arrives.”

Another previous Stayers’ Hurdle winner, Lisnagar Oscar, has been given the option by Rebecca Curtis.

Nicholls has entered Master Tommytucker, better known as a chaser but unbeaten in two outings over hurdles, while Skelton could run Proschema and Molly Ollys Wishes – who also has an entry in the bet365 Mares’ Hurdle.

There is also an Irish entry in the shape of the Charles Brynes-trained Run For Oscar.

While rain is forecast towards the end of the week at Wetherby, it would be most welcome.

Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson said: “We’re due heavy rain Thursday and into Friday morning, but once that has passed through it looks dry.

“They are saying there could be up to 15-20 millimetres in that band, which would be most welcome.

“We’re finishing off a second cycle of irrigation today, so it will have had nigh on an inch of water since Thursday-Friday.

“Tomorrow we’ll take a look and see what that rain looks like – if it’s disappeared or halved or whatever – and we’ll decide whether to water again.

“We’ve pretty much got the full range of good ground, good to soft down the back and and bit quicker up the home straight – but it’s been like that since the (configuration) change many years ago.”

The anticipated return of Cyrname will be an obvious highlight at the weekend.

Sanderson added: “It’s nice to see Cyrname back again for the Charlie Hall.

“The (entry) numbers are about what we’d expect, but the hurdle race numerically looks stronger than usual – which is great to see.

“With two previous Stayers’ Hurdle winners in there, hopefully at least one of them will run.”

Top Ville Ben fires National dream for Phil Kirby

Phil Kirby harbours dreams of a tilt at the Grand National with Top Ville Ben ahead of his planned return to action in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The nine-year-old has won three times over fences at the West Yorkshire circuit, including a big-race victory in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase on Boxing Day of 2019.

But after finishing third behind Santini and Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham the following month, Top Ville Ben was out of action for well over a year – and was pulled up on his comeback run over hurdles at Auteuil in April.

Having been buoyed by the success of Whoshotthesheriff in Wetherby’s Bobby Renton Handicap Chase earlier in the week, Kirby is looking forward to seeing another of his stable stars return in the track’s most prestigious race on October 30.

He said: “Top Ville Ben is in good form. I put him in at Chepstow last weekend as ideally we’d have liked to have got a run into him after a long time off, but it was too quick.

“He seems grand. He’s got plenty of enthusiasm.

“We’ll go straight to Wetherby. He’s as fit as Whoshotthesheriff – they’ve done the same work and everything, so we’ll see.”

While Kirby already has one eye on the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree in the spring, he admits Top Ville Ben will need some help from the handicapper if he is going to be competitive.

“The handicapper has given him a little bit of a chance for not running – he’s dropped him from 162 to 156,” the trainer added.

“Maybe the aim would be the Grand National if he drops to a mark where you think he’ll get in and he’s on a mark where he’ll have a squeak.

“I’d rather win the Charlie Hall and not have to worry about it, though!”