Kirby and Richards target 888sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day

20th December 2019

The two-day 888sport Yorkshire Christmas Meeting gets underway at Wetherby on Boxing Day, Thursday, December 26 when the highlight is the £45,000 G3 888sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (2.10pm, 24 entries).

Wetherby is delighted to welcome 888sport as a new sponsor, with the company generously sponsoring all 13 races over the two days.

Staged over three miles, the 888sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase boasts a tremendous roll of honour featuring the likes of future Cheltenham Gold cup victors Forgive ‘N Forget (1984) and The Thinker (1986).

The two latest winners of the 888sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase are among this year’s entries. Lake View Lad (Nick Alexander) took the honours in 2018 while successful in 2017 was Get On The Yager (Dan Skelton). Dan Skelton could also be represented by recent Newbury scorer Bennys King as well as Ardlethen and Captain Chaos.

Top Ville Ben (Phil Kirby) scored over the course and distance in a novices’ chase in March and went on to take third behind Lostintranslation in a G1 contest at Aintree the following month. He began this season back at Wetherby when fifth in the G2 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase on November 2 and was a close third last time in the Listed Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on November 30.

Kirby, who is based at East Appleton in North Yorkshire, said today: “Top Ville Ben is in good form and the plan is to run in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby.

“He ran a brilliant race at Newcastle. He jumped really well and was only caught late on.

“Wetherby has been the target since and depending on how things go the Grand National could be a target.

“He is still progressing and we are looking forward to running.”

The late Gordon Richards took the 888sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase with General Pershing in 1993 and his son Nicky is set to saddle Guitar Pete this year. The nine-year-old grey began this season when taking the Listed bet365 Handicap Chase over an extended two miles and three furlongs at Wetherby on November 3, when he defeated subsequent G3 BetVictor Gold Cup heroine Happy Diva by three and a half lengths. He did not uphold that form next time out, when eighth behind the same rival in the Cheltenham contest on November 16.

Richards said: “Guitar Pete is in great form and the plan is for him to run at Wetherby in the Rowland Meyrick.

“He is bouncing and was entered in the Caspian Caviar at Cheltenham, but the idea is to step up to three miles as he finishes his races well.

“We have been tempted to put him up to three miles for a while and we think Wetherby is a good track to test out the idea.

“When he won at Wetherby, it was his first run for around a year He may have just bounced in November at Cheltenham as that was not his true running.”

Local handler Sue Smith has two possible representatives in Wakanda, runner-up in both the 2016 and 2017 888sport Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase as well as fourth last year, and I Just Know, a faller when well-fancied for the 2018 Grand National but largely out of form since.

Other interesting entries include Kalashnikov (Amy Murphy), a G1 winner at Aintree last season but yet to race beyond two and a half miles. Kildisart (Ben Pauling) landed a competitive G3 handicap chase at Aintree in April while Crievehill (Nigel Twiston-Davies) has been successful on both starts so far this season, including the Bobby Renton Handicap Chase at Wetherby’s opening meeting of the season on October 16.

The seven-race card at Wetherby runs from 11.55am through to 3.20pm. Gates open at 10.00am and racegoers are advised to share transport, where possible, and arrive as early as they can on what is always the busiest day of the year at the racecourse. As usual, a shuttle bus will be operating between the town and the racecourse before and after racing. Given the large level of rainfall in recent weeks, racegoers are also strongly recommended to dress for the weather and wear footwear appropriate to the underfoot conditions.

The 888sport Yorkshire Christmas Meeting continues on Friday, December 27, when the highlight is the £25,000 888sport Castleford Handicap Chase over two miles.

The going at Wetherby is currently Soft. Conditions are forecast to remain generally dry through until after racing.

Pre-sales close at 4.00pm on Monday, December 23. Racegoers wanting to attend are advised to book tickets as soon as possible by visiting

For more information, please contact, Jonjo Sanderson, Chief Executive & Clerk of the Course, Wetherby Racecourse & Conference Centre, on 01937 543344 or 07831 437453