Blaklion tops Wetherby hopefuls

Blaklion heads 23 entries for the 188Bet Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

Blaklion could return to Wethetby on Boxing Day

The Yorkshire Christmas Meeting is one of the highlights of Wetherby's season and the two-day fixture gets under way on Monday with a cracking seven-race card headlined by the Grade Three event.

Run over three miles, the £40,000 race boasts a tremendous roll of honour, with future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Forgive 'n Forget and The Thinker the standout winners, and has attracted some high-class performers, headed by last season's RSA Chase hero Blaklion for Nigel Twiston-Davies

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has made three entries – the 2016 Scottish Grand National hero Vicente, Vivaldi Collonges and Virak.

Northern Ireland-based handler Stuart Crawford has entered Fine Rightly. The eight-year-old won a novices' hurdle over two and a half miles at Wetherby in 2014 and is a five-time winner over fences, including twice at Grade Three level. He was last seen out when third behind the mighty Douvan in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork on December 11.

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Crawford is currently mulling his options for Fine Rightly and said: "Fine Rightly is also entered in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28 and that is probably the most likely option for him at this stage.

"We gave him the entry at Wetherby to give us another option as there are not many other races for him over Christmas. I will have a good look at the entries for both races and come to a decision. He has won a novices' hurdle at Wetherby so we know he acts on the track and we haven't ruled out coming over.

"It has been such a dry autumn and we wanted to get a run into him over fences, so that is why we ran him in the Hilly Way Chase last time out. Two miles and a furlong is very much a minimum trip for him but he ran well.

"My brother Ben rode him in the Hilly Way as we were not able to get anyone who had ridden him before and Ben knows him well. I think Ben could claim if we run him in the Rowland Meyrick, so that is also something to consider."

Warren Greatrex saddled Dolatulo to victory in the Wetherby race in 2015 and the Lambourn handler has two contenders this time around – Ballyculla, who won a novices' chase over the course and distance in March, and Out Sam, twice successful in novice company in the 2015/16 season.

Other contenders include Henri Parry Morgan from the Peter Bowen stable who was runner-up in Grade One company at Aintree in April and Harry Topper (Kim Bailey), winner of the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase over the course and distance in 2013 but not seen out for almost two years.

Local handler Sue Smith has made three entries – Wakanda, Blakemount and No Planning, who has won four times at Wetherby.

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