ALTHOUGH the real big bucks are on offer on the other side of the pond this weekend, back on home soil, tomorrow’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby (3.25pm) marks the real start of the jumps season for most punters.
Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti has been the one for money all week after a hugely impressive win at Aintree in April. However, I don’t think it’s wise to read too much into Aintree form and this will be only his sixth career start over fences. He’s also only a six-year-old and you have to go back to 1982 for the last time a horse from that age bracket or younger took this race.
WEIRD AL was a commanding winner of this contest 12 months ago on his first start for Donald McCain and he has won on his seasonal reappearance for the last four seasons. A slight concern is that he has to carry a double penalty, but I can’t see him out of the first three so he is worth backing each-way at 5/1 with Coral.
Earlier on the card, SMAD PLACE has a great chance in the John Smith’s Hurdle (2.50pm) for the in-form Alan King yard. He has gone well fresh in the past and is fancied to see off Restless Harry, Tidal Bay and Cape Tribulation. It’s also worth having a few quid on Nicky Henderson’s UNE ARTISTE in the OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle (2.15pm) under Jeremiah McGrath.
There is some equally interesting action at Ascot tomorrow afternoon and Henderson’s HADRIAN’S APPROACH is fancied to land the Beginners’ Chase at 1.25pm at a course where he won over hurdles last season.
If ILE DE RE is entered in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle (2.35pm), take the hint as the Chester Cup and Northumberland Plate winner is incredibly well-handicapped over hurdles. He will need a penalty to get into the Racing Post Hurdle (formerly the Greatwood) at Cheltenham in a fortnight, but Brampour won this race 12 months ago before landing the double at Prestbury Park.
Victor Dartnall’s ACE HIGH must go close in the United House Gold Cup (3.10pm) following his solid reappearance at Chepstow last month. The stable took this prize with Exmoor Ranger last season.
Finally, don’t forget to book your tickets for Blue Square Bet Gentlemen’s Day at Sandown a week tomorrow. Champion jockey AP McCoy is the meeting’s ambassador and has been promoting the day as racing’s very own James Bond.
HADRIAN’S APPROACH 1.25pm Ascot (tomorrow)
UNE ARTISTE 2.15pm Wetherby (tomorrow)
ILE DE RE e/w 2.35pm Ascot (tomorrow)
SMAD PLACE 2.50pm Wetherby (tomorrow)
ACE HIGH e/w 13.10pm Ascot (tomorrow)
WEIRD AL e/w 3.25pm Wetherby (tomorrow)