The Charlie Hall Chase has grown into one of the best early season races for the staying chasers and once again Wetherby is set to host a brilliant card on Saturday afternoon. The Charlie Hall is a Grade 2 race run over a trip of 3m1f and it has been won by some excellent horses down the years including One Man and See More Business among others.
There is a strong field engaged in the race this weekend with most of that attention falling on Silviniaco Conti for Paul Nicholls who will be making his seasonal debut at the West Yorkshire track. The Ditcheat star won the race two years ago and since then he has grown into one of the very best chasers in training. His career highlight came last Christmas when he won the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park ahead of the classy Cue Card and he will once again be aimed at the big races this winter.
The feeling with Silviniaco Conti is that he does produce his best on flat tracks like Kempton and the defence of his Boxing Day crown is his clear early season target. He is sure to need the run at Wetherby on Saturday but if the eight-year-old can produce anything like his best this weekend, then he should become the first dual winner of the Charlie Hall Chase since Ollie Magern, who won in 2005 and 2007.
This is by no means a one horse race though with some excellent contenders set to take the favourite on. Chief among that opposition is second season chaser Taquin Du Seuil (7/2) who on his day has proven to be top class. The Jonjo O'Neill trained horse won the JLT Novices Chase last season at Cheltenham and some have been more than happy to back him ante-post for the Gold Cup since which confirms his class. He did have a run at Newton Abbot recently which could give him the edge in fitness here although he was a distant fourth that day which was way below expectations.
It seems like Menorah (6/1) has been around for years now but the Philip Hobbs horse is still only nine and rarely runs a bad race at the top level without winning too often. He was a Supreme Novices Hurdle winner over two miles as a young horse which shows his class and with connections in great form, Menorah could attract some each-way money this weekend.
The same can be said of The Giant Bolster (10/1) who also makes his season debut here as he starts his path back to the Cheltenham Festival in March. The David Bridgwater galloper has been placed in the Gold Cup three times and always seems to save his best for Prestbury Park which would rule him out here but he is clearly a classy animal who might make some appeal at a double figured price at Wetherby.