12.25 - Price Promise At bet365 Handicap Chase (3m)
With the benefit of a recent run at Ffos Las (3m, heavy) under his belt, (finished second) this looks a good chance for the Rebecca Curtis-trained FINANCIAL OUTCOME to record a first chase success outside of novice company.
The Neath trainer has her string in good order (2-6 recently) and this seven-year-old has gone up only 2lb in the ratings, while his useful rider can take off a handy 7lb here. They should be able to go very close with that recent run in mind.
Many of the others lack a recent run but any market support coming for Grange Ranger or Air Navigator would be notable.
Tom George's challenger in particular has a habit of going well after a layoff and strikes as one that looks to be on a very workable mark for this challenge in that scenario.
1.00 - bet365 Novices' Hurdle (2m3½f)
ASHTOWN LAD was keen on his seasonal bow over C&D this month but he still managed to force odds-on favourite Ask A Honey Bee to pull out all the stops before eventually finishing second, 11 lengths clear of everything else.
That was a much-improved showing on his rules bow at Doncaster in January and this point winner should have plenty scope for better for the in-form Dan and Harry Skelton team. He looks very well positioned to go a place better as such.
Useful bumper horse Brief Ambition also finished second on hurdles bow at Uttoxeter recently and must go on any shortlist for a Fergal O'Brien and Paddy Brennan alliance seen to excellent effect through the autumn.
Also, it's well worth noting recent Kelso fourth Moon King for the Charlie Longsdon team. He was prominent in the betting for that run and did well enough having made some awkward shapes at some of the jumps. Rated 94 at his best on the Flat for Ralph Beckett, it shouldn't come as a shock if he's winning races over timber before too long.
1.35 - bet365 Handicap Chase (2m3½f)
Well Smitten ended last season with a C&D success but hasn't always been the most reliable conveyance and potentially is one to take on, especially now having to contend from this 7lb higher mark now.
Guy was impressive on chase debut at Huntingdon this month for Nigel Twiston-Davies, winning by some 13 lengths, but he's certainly not been missed by the assessor and a 12lb hike amongst this stronger field poses a question. He may start favourite but this certainty looks wide open on paper.
Given his excellent record when fresh, THOMAS TODD could be the one for today. Laura Morgan's charge ended last season with a personal best to win at Market Rasen and his ability to front up first time out is a major asset. She'sasupermack would be on any shortlist if taking up this engagement, though Iain Jardine's mare is seemingly bound instead for Ayr.
2.10 - bet365 Mares' Hurdle (Listed, 2m)
Nicky Henderson's VERDANA BLUE claimed the scalp of stablemate and dual Champion Hurdler Buveur D'Air, when taking the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December 2018, and she has mostly run with great credit since despite an interrupted time of it.
She won the Scottish Champion Hurdle in the spring of 2019 off a mark of 154 and was not disgraced in fourth back at Kempton last Boxing Day behind Epatante. After a break during lockdown, she found only Coeur de Lion too good at Royal Ascot in June and then ran a stormer to be third in a strong Ebor at York in August.
Most recently, she showed herself to be in good nick over the jumps despite an odds-on reverse in a Kempton Listed event on quick ground, with the Evan Williams-trained winner Silver Streak breaking the track record. Back against her own sex and with lots in hand on official ratings, the Seven Barrows inmate should land this prize.
Whitehotchillifili steps up here having looked a useful novice last season, with her sixth place in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March a fairly solid effort. She can make progress this season and may be able to hold off Mrs Hyde for the minors.
2.45 - bet365 Hurdle (Registered as The West Yorkshire Hurdle) (Grade 2, 3m)
The first of the tried and tested stayers' hurdle contests on the British calendar that invariably track towards Cheltenham in March, Inglis Drever and Cole Harden are winners of that Festival contest to have also bagged this Wetherby prize and this afternoon they'll be joined by Lisnagar Oscar.
Getting a handle on this renewal is tough as the likely market leaders all lack a recent run. Chapmanshype has won handicaps at Fontwell and Kelso over shorter trips lately but is unproven at this distance and grade, and while Decor Irlandais has less to prove in regards to stamina, the last-time-out Killarney winner does have to prove he's up to this standard.
As noted already, Rebecca Curtis' team are in good shape and so the aforementioned Lisnagar Oscar is the logical starting place on his first start since springing a 50/1 shock in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. He took full advantage of a below-par Paisley Park run to bag that prize and is duly respected, but he concedes a Grade 1 winners' penalty today and might be beatable.
Dan Skelton's Roksana is the other open Grade 1 winner in the field, having bagged the Mares' contest at Cheltenham in 2019 after Benie Des Dieux crashed out. She's also got top-class three-mile form from Aintree that spring and is a live player receiving allowances from the boys, with her stable in cracking form.
An each-way play though is WHOLESTONE for Nigel Twiston-Davies, who was second in this contest in 2017 and remains a very reliable sort. He made a solid start to his chasing career last term, winning 2-3 starts, and while's he's been absent the thick end of a year, he has routinely put up excellent efforts on seasonal bow before and should do so again under Daryl Jacob in the familiar double-green of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Suede.
After finishing third to Samcro in the 2018 Ballymore at Cheltenham, Next Destination won a Punchestown Grade 1 novice from Delta Work the following month.
He's an intriguing runner here after 920 days out, as he is one of a number of horses transferred to Paul Nicholls from the Willie Mullins team for this season. He is definitely one to note, though perhaps with the future in mind.
3.20 - bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2, 3m)
One of the early season jumps highlights, a glance through the previous winners of the Charlie Hall shows the prestige with One Man, See More Business, Silviniaco Conti, Cue Card and Bristol De Mai amongst the Wetherby winners.
A good field of ten is assembled for this latest renewal with Paul Nicholls hoping to end an eight-year famine in the race by sending out the highest-rated chaser in Britain, Cyrname.
He beat a misfiring Altior on his comeback last term before finishing a 21-lengths second in a five-runner King George at Kempton, won easily by stablemate Clan Des Obeaux. Having then fallen at Ascot (when held) in defence of his 2m5f Grade 1 crown, there's reason enough to doubt Cyrname - especially over three miles.
Trainer Kim Bailey has his team firing just now and he's never made a secret of the regard he holds VINNDICATION in. Bailey clearly hopes he can become a Gold Cup horse and suggests this race is a 'pivotal moment' in his career.
He has won 7-10 career starts and has smart chase form behind the likes of Defi Du Seuil in the book. He swatted aside some good rivals in an Ascot handicap off a mark of 151 on reappearance last season before just failing to carry top-weight to success in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival on his only other start.
Bailey has no fears going into battle fresh and rider David Bass possesses a superb Wetherby strike-rate of 35 per-cent over the last five years. This could be a breakout race for Vinndication.
Previous winners Ballyoptic and Definitly Red aren't getting any younger but will run their races and - maybe worryingly for Cyrname - they along with Sam Spinner should ensure a stamina test. The last-named is a very lively contender.
La Bague Au Roi was favourite for this last year but got tired on really testing ground. Warren Greatrex's mare put up a gallant effort under a big weight in a Perth handicap on her recent comeback and, at generous odds this time, could threaten the places if new pilot Adam Wedge can get her into a nice racing rhythm, as she'd undergone a wind operation since that run.
3.55 - bet365 Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
Punters face a devilish 'get-out stakes' at Wetherby with this concluding handicap looking very open indeed. The betting therefore will be a valuable aid.
DO WANNA KNOW won two of three starts over hurdles last season, having joined Charlie Longsdon on the back of finishing second behind the useful Longhouse Poet in his only Irish point-to-point outing.
In the middle of those three runs, he was still leading two out at Newbury (2m4½f, soft) in November when falling but he got his confidence back when winning a match at Catterick in the spring.
He goes handicapping off a mark of 125 having undergone a wind op in the summer and sports a first-time tongue-tie this afternoon, leaving him with obvious potential for better things.
Bottom-weight Eaglehill for Olly Murphy joins the likes of Calum Gilhooley, Imperial Knight and Jonjo O'Neill's handicap debutant Arrivederci on a shortlist that could be classed as extensive. As he boasts key fitness, Graeme McPherson's contender shades the verdict, albeit narrowly, from Arrivederci for the minors.