Lucinda Russell expecting ‘epic’ Charlie Hall clash
Lucinda Russell is anticipating an “epic” renewal of the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday as her stable star Ahoy Senor prepares to renew rivalry with Bravemansgame.
The pair first met in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in the spring of 2021, with widely unconsidered 66-1 shot Ahoy Senor inflicting a shock defeat on hot favourite Bravemansgame.
The latter proved much the best in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day of last year, but Ahoy Senor emphatically turned the tables back at Aintree in the spring.
Round four will take place in West Yorkshire this weekend, with Russell excited to start a campaign that she hopes will climax with a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
“I’m just delighted to get him back on the track and start his season off,” said the Kinross handler.
“He’s been in since July, we’ve been getting him ready and he’s in fine, fine form.
“He’s a delight to train. He does all his work with his ears pricked and it’s hard for other horses to get close to him at home, so it’s going to be great to get him back on the track.
“It’s going to be an epic race, I think, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Russell would like to see further rain to ensure underfoot conditions are suitable, adding: “The main thing is we’ve got to have safe ground at what is a proper jumping track.
“Last year we didn’t run him because we felt the ground wasn’t right and I’m just hoping the ground is right on Saturday. We’ve got the rain coming, so hopefully it will be.
“Running any of the horses at any of the tracks is always a nerve-racking thing, it doesn’t matter how good or bad they are, but I’m looking forward to getting him back.”
Bravemansgame was foot-perfect in winning his first four starts over fences and can be forgiven a below-par performance at Aintree at the end of a long season.
Trainer Paul Nicholls is confident the seven-year-old is in rude health ahead of his seasonal debut.
It's a real race and the plan is this and then the King George
Speaking after saddling Gelino Bello to win at Wetherby on Friday, he said: “Harry (Cobden, jockey) walked the track and said he felt it was just good, safe ground. Perfectly fine but you wouldn’t want to be running a big, soft-ground chaser on it. There’s nothing you can do about it and there’s more rain forecast in the morning.
“Thankfully Bravemansgame will love it, that’s why I took him out of Cheltenham in March – he wants decent ground, he doesn’t want it soft and good ground is perfect for him.
“He’s in good form and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a real race and the plan is this and then the King George, that’s what we’ve always thought, but if he runs ordinary then he won’t be going – that is what the plan has always been, though.
“I don’t see any point running him between now and then because what we’ve learned is that he’s great fresh, so we’ll see how he goes tomorrow.”
The Ditcheat handler also saddles Secret Investor, who has not been seen in competitive action since getting the better of esteemed stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February of last year.
“He has been in since July 1 with other members of the Fat Boys Club who all returned into training after a year on the sidelines with various issues,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“While Secret Investor can go well fresh and has done plenty of work, he will most likely need this run after such a long absence with a minor tendon injury. He is bound to improve for the outing.”
The Joe Tizzard-trained Eldorado Allen won Exeter’s Haldon Gold Cup and the Denman Chase last season before finishing third behind the mighty Allaho in the Ryanair at Cheltenham.
“This has been Eldorado Allen’s first objective for quite some time. He has had a good preparation and we are looking forward to getting him started,” said Tizzard.
“He enjoyed the step up to three miles in the Denman Chase at Newbury, which isn’t too dissimilar to Wetherby, and three miles on a flat track seems just about right for him.
“It is a good race and should tell us whether we can look at something like the King George.”
With Christian Williams’ Win My Wings a non-runner, the field is completed by Fergal O’Brien’s Paint The Dream and Sam Brown from Anthony Honeyball’s yard.
Sam Brown bolted up in a handicap chase on Grand National day at Aintree last season and his trainer is keen to see how he fares in this company.
“He won a Grade Two novice chase, but while I wasn’t shocked he was good enough to do what he did at Aintree, I was shocked he could do it on that ground,” said Honeyball.
“I envisaged he might get outpaced and run on to finish fifth or sixth on that ground, it was around good to soft, but it did surprise. He’s always had a bit of a ‘wow’ factor to him though.
“Now he’s rated 157, races like this and the Many Clouds are the obvious ones. Hopefully the ground will be soft enough, Aidan (Coleman) will ride in the earlier races and gauge it.
“If he doesn’t prove up to it, we can go back in handicaps and think of Aintree in the spring maybe.”
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