Ahoy Senor and Bravemansgame in good shape for Wetherby showdown

By Sports Desk November 03, 2023

Derek Fox is relishing the prospect of reuniting with Ahoy Senor in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Lucinda Russell’s star chaser was bitterly disappointing and finished last when sent off the 11-10 favourite for the Grade Two event last season but would go on to prove any doubters wrong in the second half of the campaign.

Having won the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January, he was putting up a bold show when a faller six out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and showed no ill effects when quickly backing that performance up to finish a fine second to Shishkin in the Bowl at Aintree.

Lying in wait once again for Ahoy Senor is a familiar face in defending champion Bravemansgame and Fox is thrilled to be able to take the ride having successfully appealed a 10-day ban picked up at the track last month, which would have left him sat on the sidelines on Saturday afternoon.

He said: “I’m delighted I’m able to ride him, it’s all systems go and we’re looking forward to getting him out again.

“I’ve rode him out and we’re all happy with him – he’s in good form and all seems well.

“He might have needed it (the run) a bit last year. I actually don’t think he ran that badly, he was just a bit free and got a bit tired.”

The Charlie Hall is set to be run in testing conditions with Wetherby abandoning racing at the track on Friday.

However, Fox is happy his mount will be OK on the ground despite it not being connections’ preferred going for his West Yorkshire return.

He added: “He’s handled heavy ground before. Probably for the first day out for the season, ideally you wouldn’t have it so heavy, but it’s the same for them all and he handles any ground.

“We’re going there hopeful that he’s in good order at home and hoping he’ll do well.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Russell’s partner and assistant Peter Scudamore, who said: “We’ve obviously discussed it and Derek doesn’t see it as an issue.

“It was very tacky and dead ground the day he won at Cheltenham. He’s a free-going sort, but I don’t see it being too big an issue.”

Scudamore is no stranger to top-class staying chasers and the former champion jockey is looking forward to seeing Ahoy Senor kick off his new campaign.

“You are always nervous when you run a horse like that,” said Scudamore.

“We really fancied him last year (in the race) and it all went wrong, but he picked himself up from that and was able to run some really nice races.

“To be fair to the horse, he had a bad start to last season but then he ran some fabulous races, the two Cheltenham runs and Aintree, so we just need to have him back to that level.

“I’m a little bit more relaxed than I was and I just hope he jumps sensibly and then we can look at the Coral Gold Cup for him.

“This isn’t the be-all and end-all of the season, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Following victory in this race 12 months ago, Bravemansgame would go on to add the King George VI Chase at Christmas before brave efforts in defeat at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals in the spring.

Trainer Paul Nicholls was originally keen to point his Gold Cup runner-up towards Haydock’s Betfair Chase, but concerned about bottomless ground on Merseyside later this month, has elected for Bravemansgame to defend his Charlie Hall crown before returning to Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicholls told Betfair: “He enjoyed an amazing time last season and I couldn’t be happier with him as he bids to win the Charlie Hall for the second year running.

“I was leaning towards taking him to Haydock in three weeks’ time for his seasonal debut in the Betfair Chase but changed my mind after all the rain we’ve had. The way things are at the moment conditions could be bottomless at Haydock by the end of the month which would be far from ideal for Bravemansgame over almost three and a quarter miles first time out.

“It makes sense to go for the Charlie Hall with only three opponents declared against him. He won this race easily a year ago and the race comes at the right time for him ahead of the King George VI Chase at Kempton.”

Dan Skelton’s Midnight River successfully stepped up in trip when winning a big handicap at Aintree on Grand National Day and will ply his trade once again over a staying distance, while Mouse Morris will saddle the sole Irish challenger Gentlemansgame.

Morris has enjoyed success at Wetherby in the past, with the Tony McCoy-ridden Boss Doyle finishing second to Strath Royal in the 1998 Charlie Hall before going on to win back-to-back runnings of the West Yorkshire Hurdle in 2000 and 2001. He also filled the runner-up spot in the same race when bidding for the hat-trick in 2002.

Morris will now bid to enhance that record with the strapping seven-year-old who makes just his third appearance over fences.

“He’s travelled over and he’s in good shape so hopefully it’s on now, that’s the main thing,” said the Irishman.

“He ran well in Gowran and we just need to get a bit of experience into him. He’s being thrown in at the deep end on Saturday, but as long as he gives a good account of himself I’ll be happy.

“I don’t think the ground or the trip will be a problem, but you can’t beat experience in life.”

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