Charlie Hall Chase Tips: Clondaw Can Topple Cyrname

The Charlie Hall Chase is the feature race on Wetherby's calendar.
The Charlie Hall Chase is the feature race on Wetherby's calendar.

The National Hunt season continues to ramp up, and this weekend we have a plethora of top quality races, including Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase. Joe Tuffin gives his verdict... 

The Charlie Hall Chase is here, it must be the National Hunt season.

The unofficial starting point of the season proper for myself, the Charlie Hall is always a fantastic race as it provides us with the first look at some of the high-quality three-milers over a fair track, and tees us up nicely as we head into the winter months.

Although this season’s renewal is not as star studded as previous years, it is still peppered with class and sees the return of last season’s winner Cyrname, a horse once touted as the best jumps horse in training who seems to have struggled of late.  

Coming off the back of two DNFs, pulling up in both the King George and the Ascot Chase when favourite, his win in the Charlie Hall last year is the only race has completed, never mind won, since the 2019 King George when he was a well beaten second to Clan Des Obeaux.

He is such an enigma of a horse, with his class obviously there for all to see, but his unreliability is enough to put me off backing him as the evens money favourite despite his easy success last term. Sure, he may well dot up with ease and make it back-to-back wins, but it’ll either be that, or well beaten, and I’m leaning towards the latter with him given his recent runs. I can’t see there being an ‘in-between’ with him where he just runs a good race and for that reason it could be best to stay clear of what is a pretty slim price.

Shan Blue comes next in what is a pretty tricky betting affair, currently floating around the 4/1 mark and coming here off the back of an impressive novice chase campaign, in which he became a Grade 1 winner. Probably just falling short of the ‘top class’ category, his form in the four consecutive Grade 1 races he tried to conquer read 1252, though it’s worth noting that he was 32 lengths beaten in that latter second, and this looks like a pretty good starting point for him as he kicks on into open company - especially given he was twice a course winner last term.

Given his form and ultimately consistency, he is probably a better bet than the favourite with the course, ground and trip being no obvious concern, so he would certainly offer you a bit more ‘bang for your buck’ and is expected to be bang there, but there could be more value to be had.

Clondow Castle is another who impressed last term and will look to continue that progression, going from a good handicapper to a bonafide Graded contender, with form figures of 322 outside of the big handicaps in the Peterborough Chase, Silviniaco Conti Chase and the Grade 1 Aintree bowl. I expect this year they’ll aim to win a couple of these events with this improving nine-year-old and this could be the perfect starting point for Tom George’s gelding.

His first time out form is no worry, both of his latest wins have come on good ground, the trip is no concern - he ticks a lot of boxes. He’ll certainly have his work cut out if Cyrname is on song but at 5/1 he has to be the value bet to win for the first time at this level.

The final of the sub 10/1 runners is the Nicky Henderson trained Fusil Raffles, who is another who is stepping out of novice company this season after an admirable first year. Thrice a winner, his best run came in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival where he was only three-lengths behind the winner Chantry House (Shan Blue was back in fifth) - his other two runs at graded level bore no fruit however as he pulled up on both occasions. He is one of only two in the field that benefit from already having a run under their belt this year after finishing second to Bravemansgame earlier this month and that is certain to help him, but he just lacks that quality and experience to be winning this realistically and may be resigned to the places, though a replication of his run in the Marsh could make him a serious contender at 13/2.

Kitty’s Light and Mighty Thunder are two that are available at a double-figure price with the prior mentioned the only other runner in the field that has a run under his belt this year - a second placed finish in a Chepstow handicap. He’s been a very consistent horse for Christian Williams but this represents a sharp increase in class and his future is probably more in the big-staying handicaps than it is a Grade 2 such as the Charlie Hall - with his prices of 20/1 for the Ladbrokes Trophy, 12/1 for the Welsh National and 50/1 for the Grand National probably supporting that argument. A horse worthy of siding with at some stage this year, but probably not on this occasion.

Mighty Thunder finished last season as Scotland’s top staying prospect after landing their version of the Grand National, as well as a very close second in the Midlands National and a win in the Edinburgh National. Again though, the repetition of the word National gives you a hint of where this horse's future lies, and this is probably a bit beyond his remit given it’ll be his first run under four-miles since December 2020, and he also has to lug around 11-4lb after picking up a penalty for that win in the Scottish National last time out. A good prospect for the year, but lacking that speed and flare needed to win these type of events.

The field is completed by Top Ville ben, who very nearly made it as my bet until the final declarations came out and there were only seven in it, meaning each-way terms are now two places. A horse I really like, he represents the Phil Kirby yard who have a knack of winning races at Wetherby and are consistently at the better end of their top trainer standings. Top Ville Ben was a runner in this in 2019 and looked to be giving a good account until quickly dropping out the picture in the turn for home, but he returned on Boxing Day in 2020 to land the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick over the same trip and wasn’t hard pressed there at all. It’s worth remembering that it wasn’t that long ago that he finished third in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase behind Lostintranslation and Topofthegame, beaten only six lengths in total, so clearly has a lot of class. I think he could sneak himself into the picture here at a course he obviously enjoys, and at a huge price of 33/1 he could be worth a play, it’s just a shame we don’t have that third place as second could be a little too much of an ask.

Charlie Hall Chase
Clondaw Castle silk

Clondaw Castle

lost

 Charlie Hall Top 3 Prediction:

  1. Clondaw Castle
  2. Shan Blue
  3. Top Ville Ben
Charlie Hall Chase Odds
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