24 December 2021

O’Brien happy Rowland Meyrick is ‘right race’ for Silver Hallmark

24 December 2021

Fergal O’Brien is hoping for rain over Yorkshire ahead of Silver Hallmark’s bid to land the William Hill Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

The seven-year-old was fourth behind subsequent Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Fiddlerontheroof when last seen on his seasonal debut in the Listed Colin Parker Chase at Carlisle.

A step up to three miles now beckons for the lightly-raced grey, who has point-to-point form over the trip and is bred to see out a staying distance.

“I’m glad to have Adam Wedge to ride him as he knows him best,” said O’Brien.

“We’re hoping for a good run, the step up in trip we think won’t do him any harm though we did want to wait a little bit longer before going over three miles.

“It’s the right race and hopefully he’ll go and run his race.

“He wants soft and that’s why we didn’t run him at Cheltenham, it was lovely going but it was too quick for him so we just want soft ground – fingers crossed.”

Sandy Thomson’s Empire Steel will seek a first Pattern-race success when he takes his place in the race having finished second by a length and a half to Christian Williams’ Strictlyadancer on his last outing at Haydock in November.

He was an initial entrant in the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at the same venue last weekend, but Thomson opted to veto that engagement and now heads for this Grade Three assignment.

“We decided to give Haydock a miss, but we’re very happy with him,” the trainer said.

“Hopefully he’s a young, progressive horse and he should run a big race.”

As a novice chaser Empire Steel won two of his four starts and looked highly promising when beating Dan Skelton’s Protektorat at Kelso in February.

Protektorat then went on to score at Grade One level in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April and has continued to impress this season when finishing second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham and then landing the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree.

“He has got some nice novice form, obviously he’s got that bit of form with Protektorat which you could take either way,” Thomson said.

“We were delighted with his run at Haydock and we’re looking forward to it.”

He has got some nice novice form, obviously he's got that bit of form with Protektorat which you could take either way

Empire Steel has performed well on surfaces ranging from good to soft to heavy, and while Thomson would not want particularly quick going at Wetherby, he is happy that his horse will be effective on most types of ground.

“I think it was probably quicker ground at Haydock as it usually is, but I would have thought he’d handle most ground,” he said.

“He won at Kelso in the soft, he ran well at Haydock on the better ground.

“He wouldn’t want it too quick, but we’d be happy enough with good to soft ground.”

Cloudy Glen won the Ladbrokes Trophy last time (Steven Paston/PA) (PA Wire)

Also in a field of 10 for the Wetherby highlight is last month’s Ladbrokes Trophy hero Cloudy Glen. Venetia Williams’ charge will shoulder top-weight of 11st 12lb, with the Phil Kirby-trained Top Ville Ben and Richard Hobson’s Lord Du Mesnil also carrying that burden.

Popular veterans Lake View Lad and Takingrisks are others to feature, along with Good Boy Bobby, Windsor Avenue and Debece.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox