The G2 William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase and rearranged G2 William Hill Cleeve Hurdle form part of a quality card at Wetherby this Saturday, February 6. Run over three miles, the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase (2.35pm, 14 entries) is often a good pointer to the spring festivals as well as other major staying prizes further down the line.
Mr Mulligan won the inaugural running in 1996 before going on to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory the following season. The Big Breakaway (Colin Tizzard) is the 7/4 favourite with William Hill, having bounced back from an odds-on defeat at Exeter to finish second in the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, a race he may well have won with a better jump at the last. G3 Coral Cup heroine Dame De Compagnie had one rival to beat when making a successful chasing debut at Ayr on January 18. She could attempt to give trainer Nicky Henderson a first win in the William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase.
Gary Moore is hoping Full Back can take another step up the ladder after beating Acey Milan by 31 lengths at Plumpton in December and following up with another dour success at Exeter on January 19. The lightly raced six-year-old holds entries in the G1 Festival Novices’ Chase and G2 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Moore said today: “Full Back has come out of Exeter in pretty good shape. He worked well this morning and providing everything goes well between now and the Towton, we would like to go there. “I cannot do anything but praise the horse. He dug it out well the other day under a penalty. OK, the race fell apart a little bit, but he still had to do what he done, and he done it quite well. “Until he takes on something a bit better, he is quite hard to gauge. He has had two uncontested leads so far, although he is probably better with a lead. It is all a learning curve really as we have gone steady with him. Hopefully, he can keep going onwards and upwards from here.”
Sevarano (Oliver Sherwood) looked a chaser of considerable potential in winning novices’ handicaps at Sandown Park and Exeter, although was unable to complete a three-timer when fourth in a similar contest at Newbury on December 29. Hurricane Harvey (Fergal O’Brien) and Milanford (Nick Mitchell) clashed earlier this season in the G2 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster, with Hurricane Harvey coming out on top by a length and a quarter. Eye-catching Hereford scorer Port Of Mars (Olly Murphy) and recent Wetherby victor Remastered (David Pipe) are other entries to note.
William Hill Towton Novices’ Chase – William Hill odds: 7/4 The Big Breakaway; 4/1 Severano; 5/1 Dame De Compagnie, Port Of Mars; 6/1 Full Back, Remastered; 8/1 Hurricane Harvey; 10/1 Kiltealy Briggs; 12/1 Milanford; 14/1 The Ferry Master; 20/1 Hold That Taught; 25/1 Eva’s Oskar, Good And Hardy; 100/1 Leverock Lass
A key trial for the G1 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the G2 William Hill Cleeve Hurdle (1.58pm, 3m) has transferred to Wetherby after Cheltenham’s fixture last weekend was abandoned. The 17 entries include, surprisingly, top staying chaser Bristol de Mai (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who has been kept fresh since landing his third G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November. Bristol de Mai, now a 10-year-old, was a high-class hurdler in his younger years, winning the G1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle on his British debut at Chepstow in December 2014. He also holds an entry in the rescheduled G2 Cotswold Chase at Sandown Park. Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, said today: “Rather like the weather, things are up in the air at the moment and we wanted to give ourselves another option as there’s no guarantee either meeting will be on at this stage. “We will leave the final decision until Thursday morning I suspect. It is more likely that Bristol De Mai goes for the Cotswold Chase, but he has no penalty in the Cleeve Hurdle and has won round Wetherby in the past [G2 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase in 2017], so nothing has been decided just yet.”
The established hurdlers among the entries include Main Fact (David Pipe), a winner of nine consecutive races on the Flat and over hurdles prior to finishing seventh in the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December. On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson) captured a Listed handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November and was in winning action again last month in a handicap hurdle at Market Rasen. Lake View Lad (Nick Alexander), Itchy Feet (Olly Murphy) and Yorkhill (Sandy Thomson), who have all run to a high level over fences this term, are also engaged.
An interesting Yorkshire-trained contender is Albert’s Back (Mick Easterby). The seven-year-old has recorded comfortable wins at Wetherby and Haydock this season but has yet to race over three miles.
William Hill Cleeve Hurdle – William Hill odds: 4/1 On The Blind Side; 9/2 Itchy Feet; 5/1 Main Fact; 6/1 Bristol de Mai; 8/1 Third Wind; 9/1 Ask Dillon; 10/1 Albert’s Back; 12/1 Agrapart, Lake View Lad; 14/1 Ballyoptic, Ramses de Teillee; 16/1 Decor Irlandais, Portrush Ted, Yorkhill; 25/1 West Approach; 33/1 Illegal Model; 66/1 Donna’s Diamond
The going at Wetherby is currently Heavy, Soft in places.