NICHOLLS OUTLINES HIS PLANS FOR skybet.com CASTLEFORD CHASE
Paul Nicholls has four entered for the £50,000 Grade Two skybet.com Castleford Chase, the highlight at Wetherby on Bank Holiday Tuesday, December 27, with Albuhera an intended runner, and stablemates Armaturk, Le Passing and Sporazene on standby.
The Ditcheat handler said: "Albuhera definitely runs and I may run one of the others. He's A-one fine and in good nick after Cheltenham. I've always had this race in mind for him. He put up a good effort at the course back in October and he's done well since. He won't mind the ground - good to soft will be perfect."
The seven-year-old ran a fine race in defeat when a close third behind Exotic Dancer and Bewleys Berry at Cheltenham earlier this month, conceding weight to both rivals.
Albuhera previously posted an impressive debut victory over fences at Wetherby, defeating the well-regarded Rebel Rhythm in the bet365 Beginners' Chase on October 28. His two wins from four chasing starts includes a Newbury success last month in the Grade Two Dubai Duty Free Fulke Walwyn Novices' Chase.
Nicholls continued: "Joe Tizzard will ride Albuhera and we'll possibly run one other at the moment. They're all in good form and they all have other options, so I'll just have a look before I make my mind up which to run."
Armaturk has contested the £50,000 contest twice previously, running second in 2002 and third to Mister McGoldrick last season.
Le Passing was last seen when runner-up to Sir Oj in the Robin Cook Memorial Handicap Chase at Cheltenham earlier this month, while Sporazene could return to chasing after a seventh-placing behind Harchibald in the Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham last time.
Latest Sky Bet prices for the skybet.com Castleford Chase:
7/1 Mister McGoldrick
8/1 El Vaquero
10/1 Le Passing
100/1 Sir Storm
Each-way 1/5 the odds - 1, 2, 3
10 DECLARED FOR skybet.com ROWLAND MEYRICK CHASE
Boxing Day's highlight at Wetherby, the £50,000 Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase has attracted 10 starters at today's final declaration stage.
Heading the field is Howard Johnson's Grey Abbey, winner of the 2004 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby as well as the 2004 Scottish Grand National, the 2005 Betfair Bowl at Aintree and the 2005 Pillar Property Chase at Cheltenham.
The popular grey is set to face some stiff opposition in this year's renewal of the three mile, one furlong contest including last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Take The Stand, Martin Pipe's Therealbandit and Paul Nicholls' consistent performer My Will.
In addition, both Truckers Tavern and Malek, the first two horses home in the 2004 skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, are set to line up once again along with last season's Scottish Grand National hero Joes Edge, Aintree specialist Forest Gunner, Barron Windrush and St Matthew, who represents local Bingley trainer Sue Smith and was successful in the Listed Weatherbys Bank Handicap Chase at Wetherby on October 29.
Dale Tempest, PR Director at Sky Bet, commented: "We are delighted that the skybet.com Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase has attracted such a high-quality field and it looks all set to be a fantastic race.
"It is particularly pleasing to see Grey Abbey, such a popular horse with the racing public, heading the field."
Following 5mm of rain at Wetherby yesterday, the ground is now: SOFT, GOOD TO SOFT IN PLACES.
Wetherby's Chief Executive James Sanderson reported today: "With the rain we had yesterday, the going has now eased to soft, good to soft in places.
"We are forecast for high pressure to pass over us at the weekend, with the lowest temperature predicted to be zero degrees on Christmas Day (Sunday) night.
"From Boxing Day onwards, the forecast is for more cloudy and wintry conditions, so hopefully that will reduce the risk of frost."
Wetherby's two-day Sky Bet Christmas Meeting commences on Boxing Day, Monday, December 26 and continues Bank Holiday Tuesday, December 27, with high-class racing programmed for both days. This will be the fourth year that Harrogate-based Sky Bet has generously supported these two days, which boast prize money of £174,000 for 2005. For the fifth time in the last six years, the West Yorkshire course was recently voted the 'Best Small Racecourse in the North' by The Racegoers Club.
Gates will be open at 10.00am and racegoers are advised to arrive in good time for what are always two of the busiest days of the year at Wetherby. As an extra incentive to arrive promptly, free mulled wine and mince pies will be available from 10.00am onwards in the Paddock Enclosure (while stocks last!).