Wetherby champion back to defend

Menorah and Richard Johnson jump the last fence as they go on and win the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase
Menorah and Richard Johnson jump the last fence as they go on and win the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase
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REIGNING champion Menorah and Many Clouds, the 2015 Grand National hero, head the entries for this Saturday’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

The West Yorkshire track’s signature race of the year has attracted 11 runners including David Pipe’s former Cheltenham Festival winners Ballynagour and Dynaste.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has entered Rocky Creek and Sam Winner, two top-class chasers, while multiple Grade One winner Cue card is a tantalising entry for Westcountry trainer Colin Tizzard.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Holywell, fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is another high-profile entry.

Local hopes rest with Alderbook Lad from the Middleham yard of in-form trainer Micky Hammond.

Irish Cavalier and The Romford Pele, both trained in Wales by Rebecca Curtis, complete the field for this three mile test, the early season highlight of the National Hunt season.

As revealed by The Yorkshire Post last week, Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner Cole Harden misses the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle which he won last year en route to Cheltenham glory.

However his absence has led to 17 initial declarations being made, including former Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby and Neil Mulholland’s The Druids Nephew who was leading this year’s Grand National when coming to grief at the 25th fence.

The aforementioned Ballynagour is also entered in this race while Sue Smith has entered both Cloudy Too and No Planning, two admirably consistent horses at her High Eldwick yard. Goldan Jess could represent Middleham-based Phil Kirby.

Nicky Henderson’s Ma Filleule, second in this year’s Ryanair Chase, heads 14 entries for the Olbg.com Mares’ Hurdle. Intense Tango (Karl Burke), Western Breeze (Mark Walford) and Last Supper (James Bethell) represent Yorkshire stables.