For me the Charlie Hall Steeple Chase run over 3 miles and 1 furlong at Wetherby signifies the start of the new National Hunt Season. The race was first run in 1969 as the Wetherby Pattern Chase and won by Arcturus trained by Neville Crump and ridded by Pat Buckley. In 1978 it became known as the Charlie Hall Memorial Wetherby Pattern Chase and then in 1990 simply as the Charlie Hall Chase. Tetley Bitter sponsored the race in 1991, 1992 and 1993 and then it reverted back to the Charlie Hall Chase until 1999 when the Peterhouse Group started sponsoring until 2002. In 2003 Bet365 took over sponsoring the race. This years race is worth £100,000.00 and looks to be between the leading four in the betting:- Diamond Harry, Time for Rupert, Poquelin and last years winner Nacarat. Diamond Harry (pictured) won first time out last season when winning the Hennessy at Newbury and will have a new jockey this season in James Reveley. Time for Rupert was an expensive failure at the Cheltenham Festival when he broke a blood vessel. Nacarat won this race on his first outing last season and is reunited with Sam Thomas. Ruby Walsh chances his arm and comes over from Ireland to ride Poquelin who has never raced this far before. Ruby Walsh is fearful of collecting another whip ban which would see him suspended for ten days. The British Horseracing Authority are great at shooting British horse racing in the foot. The whip rules were tinkered once again after the media coverage of Ballabriggs hard fought win in the Grand National. The nearly 9 million BBC TV viewers would have seen Ballabriggs dismounted after crossing the line and doused with water. On an unusally hot day all the riders had been instructed to dismount after the race. When jockey Jason Maguire was given a five-day suspension for excessive use of the whip the usual media idiots like John McCririck, who have probably never sat on a horse, expressed their opinions again about the whip which can be detrimental to horse racing. The timing by the British Horseracing Authority to introduce the new rules one week before Champions Day at Ascot showed complete incompetence. It was a shame this shadow hung over what was a very successful day for Ascot, helped no doubt by the appearance of Frankel and some glorious weather. Lets hope the British Horseracing Authority can get their act together and sort out the mess that they have created.
To get back to the Charlie Hall Chase, Diamond Harry looks a worthy favourite and he might prove too strong for Nacarat who looks the eachway value.