Skelton hopeful for Captain Chaos in tomorrow’s G2 totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby – flags to fly at half-mast in honour of the late Malcolm Jefferson

A high-class field is set to go to post for the £35,000 G2 totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase (2.40pm), the highlight of a seven-race programme at Wetherby tomorrow, Saturday, February 3, Totepool Medieval Day.
The top-rated performer in tomorrow’s three-mile contest, with a BHA rating of 150, isBallyoptic (Nigel Twiston-Davies/Tom Bellamy).
A G1 scorer over hurdles, the eight-year-old won impressively over fences at Exeter in November and was last seen out when fourth in the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Gloucestershire-based Nigel Twiston-Davies is the joint most successful trainer in the totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase, with two victories courtesy of Ollie Magern (2005) and Blaklion (2016).
Captain Chaos (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton) is a second season novice over fences and fell at the sixth in last year’s totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase.
The seven-year-old has improved for the application of blinkers and the switch to front-running tactics on his last two starts, taking a novices’ contest by 19 lengths at Aintree on November 11 and another over course and distance at Wetherby on November 29.
Dan Skelton, who trains in Warwickshire, said today: “Captain Chaos obviously won around Wetherby last time and we have always had this race in mind.
“He has enjoyed going from the front in blinkers and it probably isn’t ideal having a few others in the race who like to go forward.
“The ground is fine for him and he has no problem with the track, but there is a significant increase in the quality of the opposition compared to his last two starts.
“We have got to cross that bridge, but we are happy with him and he goes there with plenty in his favour.”
Ami Desbois (Graeme McPherson/Kielan Woods) is already a dual winner over fences at Wetherby this season, having captured novices’ chases over shorter distances in November and December. The eight-year-old needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort last time out when pulled up in a G2 contest at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
Local handler Sue Smith is enjoying a rich vein of form at the moment and runs the Trevor Hemmings-owned Vintage Clouds (Danny Cook). The eight-year-old took on seasoned opposition last time out when an excellent fourth in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on January 6, having won an Aintree novices’ handicap chase easily earlier in the season.
The one mare in the totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase is Pearl Royale (Nigel Hawke/Tom Cannon), who makes the trip up from Devon. On her only start so far this year, the six-year-old was an impressive winner at Wetherby on Boxing Day when she sauntered to a six-length victory in a two and a half-mile mares’ novices’ chase.
Completing the line-up is Scottish raider Shades Of Midnight (Sandy Thomson/Harry Bannister). A useful performer at his best over hurdles, the eight-year-old makes his debut for Thomson tomorrow having previously been trained by Donald Whillans.
Racing on Totepool Medieval Day starts at 1.00pm and runs through to 4.30pm.
Malcolm Jefferson remembered at Wetherby tomorrow
There would surely be no more popular winners tomorrow than Special Catch (one of eight runners in the totescoop6 Play Today Handicap Chase at 1.35pm) and Only Orvieto(one the four starters in the totescoop6 It’s A Rollover Novices’ Hurdle at 2.10pm).
 
The pair are trained by Ruth Jefferson, who has inherited the training licence from her father Malcolm, who sadly died this morning aged 71 following a long battle against illness.
Malcolm enjoyed lots of success from his Newstead Cottage Stables base at Norton in North Yorkshire, including several big-race wins at Wetherby. He landed the Boxing Day highlight, the G3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase, in back-to-back years with According To Pete (2011) and Cape Tribulation (2012). He was also victorious in the other the other highlight of the Christmas Meeting, the Castleford Chase, with dual scorer Calatagan (2006 & 2007).
In memory of Malcolm, the flags in the winner’s enclosure will fly at half-mast and a tribute to him will be read out.
Away from the track, The Knights In Battle, a medieval re-enactment group, will be present at their authentic medieval camp within the paddock where racegoers have the chance to handle medieval weapons and armour, see how a battle camp kitchen is run and watch a couple of master craftsmen at work.
The Knights In Battle will also be providing a variety of battle re-enactment demonstrations throughout the day.
Other attractions include SMJ Falconry, who will have birds of prey on display for racegoers to look at and handle. The crowd can also enjoy the sound of 1461, with musicians playing on fully authentic medieval instruments.
The going at Wetherby is currently: Heavy, Soft in places
Today is forecast to be dry, with a minimum temperature of zero degrees Celsius overnight.
A light shower is forecast before lunchtime tomorrow, yielding up to one millimetre of rain. The afternoon should be dry, with temperatures around three degrees Celsius.
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