It's day one on Friday of the prestigious two day Charlie Hall meeting, and we send four of our hurdlers to Wetherby's seasonal highlight, where the going at the time of writing is good, and they are watering to maintain.
At 12.55.pm, in division one of the 0-110 two miles and five furlong handicap we are represented by the exceptionally well handicapped, (judged on his flat form) The Rutland Rebel. On his most recent flat start he was second from a mark of 70 at Pontefract, and then 17 days ago at Huntingdon he made his handicap hurdle debut from a mark of 89. He jumped adequately that day, but put in the occasional novice jump at times, and had little to give from three out over three miles and one furlong, in a better race than this. His mark has now been reduced by a further 3lb, and although he has shown very little over the jumps, he is no mug on the flat. Conor O'Farrell retains the ride on ground which will suit.
We are doubly represented in division two at 1.30.pm, when The Very Thing returns from around a four months break, and Not What It Seems steps in to handicap company for the first time. Just prior to lock down in March 2020 The Very Thing ran his best race for us when finishing second over three miles at Wetherby on soft ground, but because of lock down he was denied the chance to build on that run, and since returning in November 2020, he hasn't been in the same form in six starts. His mark has now slipped to an attractive 84, but his best form has come on a much softer surface than he will encounter here, and a longer trip would probably be more agreeable. His regular jockey Alain Cawley is once again in the saddle.
Not What It Seems must have traded at odds on in running in the novice hurdle at Wetherby 16 days ago, as he was travelling best from three out. Perhaps the lack of a recent run, or maybe that he was outpaced by the winner are possible factors as to why he didn't find quite as much as it looked he would. The winner is obviously a decent performer, so his current mark of 108 looks workable. Not What it seems now steps up a further one and a half furlongs with Conor O'Farrell retaining the ride on ground which will suit.
The seven year old mare Ilaya returns to action at 2.40.pm, in a 0-135 handicap hurdle over two miles, which will be her first start since March. Ilaya probably ran her best race 12 months earlier in March 2020 at Catterick in a novice hurdle when carrying a double penalty, and going down by a short head, the handicapper was impressed enough to give her a mark of 125. She returned in this corresponding race 12 months ago finishing fifth, and beaten by eight lengths, she can now race from 14lb lower having disappointed in three subsequent runs, although her final start of last season was not without promise, finishing third, four and a quarter lengths behind the winner from a mark of 113. Ilaya will probably handle good ground although any rain would help, Becky Smith who won on her at Newcastle in January 2020 is back in the saddle.
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Good luck to the connections, Ryder Sugden, Derek Wapole, and The Golden Cuckoo.