Time For Rupert, one of the top staying novice chasers of last term, made a pleasing return to action at Wetherby on Saturday when a good second to the impressive Weird Al in what looked a fine renewal of the Grade 2 Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, writes Elliot Slater.

The horse who gave the mighty Big Buck’s a serious race when a three-length second to Paul Nicholls’ superstar in the 2010 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (on what proved to be his final outing over timber), went on to establish himself as a leading contender for top honours in the three-mile novice chase division last season with two scintillating victories in his first two starts over fences at Cheltenham last autumn. People looking at the Grand National betting should bear this in mind.

In slamming the very useful Hell’s Bay by eight-lengths then beating the subsequent National Hunt Chase hero Chicago Grey by the same distance at the Prestbury track, Webber’s stable star guaranteed that he would be sent off favourite for the RSA Chase, but the eventual 7/4 market leader ran below-par in finishing only fifth to Bostons Angel (beaten just six-lengths) and was subsequently found to have burst a blood vessel. Those looking for a Grand National winner should remember this.

Returning to the fray and despite reportedly being in need of the outing, Time For Rupert was sent off a well backed 11/8 favourite to win the ‘Charlie Hall’ and gave supporters plenty of cause for optimism when coming through to lead after the third last, only to find Weird Al too strong in the closing stages, eventually finishing second, beaten three-and-a-half-lengths by Donald McCain’s exciting prospect, the pair finishing a long way clear of some smart rivals.

Despite his defeat many bookmakers saw fit to trim the odds of a Time For Rupert Cheltenham Gold Cup victory to as short as 10/1 in places (14/1 still generally available), whilst Weird Al was cut to around 16/1 with most firms. Both horses look set for a good season, but it might well prove the case that ‘Rupert’ is the one who will prove the stronger of the pair later on in the term.

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