Two weeks ago it was Lancaster the capital of Lancashire for some non league football and today it was Warwick the capital of Warwickshire for Warwick’s big day in the sporting calendar and for National Hunt fans in general.
The historic town and track has played host to many a good horse over the years,it was this meeting last year which had runners such as The New One,Auroras Encore,Godsmejudge and Quentin Collonges, it’s fair to say they ended their respective seasons with good performances.
Today was an eight race card with the inclusion of a Listed Mares Hurdle which was transferred from last Saturdays abandoned Sandown meeting,also trainer Willie Mullins brought three over which were his first ever runners here at this popular Midlands venue.
12.10 The Levy Board Warwick Mares Hurdle,Class 1,Listed,4yo+,2m3f,9 flights.
Glens Melody resumed winning ways here following her poor run at Cheltenham last time in the Relkeel Hurdle,taking up the running after the second last flight she always looked in command and had to be ridden out to the line to hold off the late challenge from Mischievous Milly with Hidden Identity only a half length back in third.
The pace was steady and a stewards was called after the finish but for me I could not see any reason to call one, Glens Melody is a more than useful mare,no doubt the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham would be the target but she is a lot better right handed so Punchestown could be preferred in the spring plus the yard have a certain mare called Quevega.
The placed horses will have enhanced their paddock value here and ran good races in defeat.
12.45 The Betfred Goals Galore Novices Handicap Hurdle,Class 4,4yo+ (0-108) 2m,8 flights.
Not a strong race,plenty of average sorts in it that went to an all the way victory to Dungeness who came here off the back of a third at Uttoxeter over 2m4f, the drop in trip didn’t matter here and the stamina came into play when getting challenged by Bold Cuffs on the run to the last to record a four length win.
Favourite Don Polleoni was tracking the pack until tipping up at the first down the back while for me the eye catching horse was Cropley having his first start for Jonjo O’Neill, this 2m trip was to short and will be a lot better over further in time.
1.20 The Betfred Goals Galore Novices Chase,Class 2,5yo+ 3m,18 fences.
This race always gets a small field but it’s always a classy one at that for future staying chasers although sadly for me Gevrey Chambertin didn’t get declared here which is a shame as I can’t wait to see him take on a fence.
Corrin Wood got the hat trick up here with a cracking display of jumping,making all the running despite sometimes going to the right he have favourite Black Thunder a 2.5 length thrashing who was in trouble as the two of them made the run to the second last but when Jason Maguire asked Corrin Wood he found extra and responded.
Both horses will no doubt end up festival bound but probably not for the RSA Chase,maybe the 4m event or even Aintree which could suit the winner a lot better as he loves to dominate.
Court Victory was back since running in this two years ago,he will have come on for the run and maybe a weaker event will be found for him.
1.55 The Betfred Handicap Chase (For the Edward Courage Cup) Class 3,5yo+ (0-135) 2m,12 fences.
Plenty of in form horses in this fast and furious contest.
It was a return to winning ways for Dare Me,a 10yo who had not run since being second at Cartmel back in May to give Venetia Williams a double on the day, taking the lead down the back he was fully in command turning for home and won the race in the style of a professional horse, winning off a mark of 127 he will shoot up after this fourteen length win.
Al Alfa and Dolatulo were back in second and third and could not live with the winner but special praise must go to Nozic, the evergreen 13yo back in fourth ran a cracker and has shown he has a bit of the old sparkle.
2.25,The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,5yo+ (0-148) 3m1f,12 flights.
Twelve set off for which only the first eight are guaranteed to at least be able to enter the final at the Cheltenham Festival, this series has twenty nine qualifying races which includes races in Ireland and France.
A mixture of potential Graded horse,improving handicappers and chasers back over timber for this renewal.
The early pace was being set by the David Pipe trained Bygones Sovereign who made the running in the style of a typical Pipe horse and still had the lead as they turned for home but he got headed by the first three although he did stay on.
Race winner by 2.75 lengths was Uncle Jimmy,the 7yo came into the race with good place form over 2m4f and the step up in trip benefitted him a lot under 10lb conditional Thomas Chessman who hopefully will keep the ride should he make the final cut in March, he clattered the second last flight but found extra up the run in to defeat Grand Vision who ran much better than his first run off a lay off at Cheltenham on New Years Day,he will no doubt go chasing next term, novice Drop Out Joe ran a blinder and is still improving.
Tidal Dance the favourite fell after jumping the third a stride to early but is still worth watching out for,African Gold is in the grips of the handicapper and Oscar Fortune ran very poor and is capable of better,could be the ground didn’t suit.
3.00 The Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle,Grade 2,5yo+,2m5f,11 flights.
A race with a rich history of horses that have taken part over the years,to many to mention here but last years winner The New One has gone on to be part of the Champion Hurdle field while one previous winner who was a real favourite of mine Barton owned by the much missed Sir Stan Clarke who I certainly don’t think that had he still been alive would have shut Hereford and Folkestone, Monsignor who sadly is no longer with us was also a former winner so it’s a race worth keeping an eye on for future winners.
Favourite was the Willie Mullins trained Rathvinden who came into this with a fairly big reputation follow in his maiden hurdle win at Cork and he is held in very high regard and was slowly creeping into contention before falling at the third last flight.
At the business end the win went to Deputy Dan who was coming into this after a maiden hurdle win at Chepstow he had Masters Hill nine lengths in second and it was another seven back to Splash Of Ginge who boxed on for third.
A lot to like about Deputy Dan,he won’t be a Champion Hurdle contender but shapes like a stayer,he will probably not run now until Cheltenham where he will be aimed at either the 2m5f or 3m Novice events, Masters Hill will be better at 3m and could go chasing next season.
Rathvinden is still a high class prospect over hurdles,he was going well when he fell and is still worth keeping in the notebook for the future.
3.35 The Betfred Classic Chase,Grade3,5yo+,3m5f,22 fences
On Thursday a field of 16 got declared for this big Saturday handicap but amazingly come race day their was a non runner which made it 15 so each way betting was the first three only,What a total shock that was,you rarely see that nowadays do you!
This race had the look of a real stamina sapping slog about it and of the fifteen who faced the starter only seven completed the course.
Last year the form worked out very well,Auroras Encore won the Grand National,Godsmejudge won the Scottish one and Quentin Collonges won the end of season Gold Cup at Sandown,wether or not the same will happen again I’m not so sure.
Today was a case of youth just getting the better of experience as 7yo Shotgun Paddy found extra reserves to take over from the ever gallant and popular stayer Carruthers coming to the second from home and got the prize by six lengths, Shotgun Paddy was having only his fourth start over fences and on his last run chased home Black Thunder in a Grade Two at Lingfield, he is continuing his chasing career is good style and looks happy in these marathon events, The four-miler at Cheltenham has been touted although other events such as the Irish National,Scottish National,Midlands National will also come under close consideration.
Carruthers the loveable 11yo ran his heart out despite being 4lb higher than his 2011 Hennessy win yet remains as good as ever, Sandown has been suggested in April which would be appropriate for him as his breeder the late Lord Oaksey always regarded Sandown as the best steeplechase course in the world, I would love to see him tackle the Aintree fences,given their much easier nature he could get into a good rhythm easily but it’s highly unlikely.
Vesper Bell yet again fell although he got further than he did at Aintree but he needs a good clear round of jumping to boost his confidence,he could still be a National horse.
Former winner Hey Big Spender was pulled up before the 7th fence,retirement maybe on the cards much the same for Master Overseer who was pulled up after the first circuit.
For me the eye catcher was Loch Ba who 14.5 lengths fourth behind Shotgun Paddy,he was staying on and didn’t look to be stopping at the end, My immediate thought was he should be aimed for the National,I liked the way he stayed and the extra mile will be no problem to him at all.
4.05 Betfred TV “Newcomers” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 6, 4.5&6yo,2m.
National Hunt racings version of the Wood Ditton here with nine horse making their racecourse debuts.
The judge was needed to separate winner Millicent Silver a 5yo mare from fellow 5yo mare Meetmeatthemoon by a head.
Both traveled well turning for home and they had a real battle in the last furlong,they were 3.5 lengths clear of Superior Fire in third who is only 4 and got 5lbs at the weights,he will improve from this.
The well regarded Vagner was last,prominent early he tailed off with 5f to go but should do better in time.
A classy days January jump racing indeed at Warwick,some quality racing with top finishes,some real rare incidents too such as fallers in all the hurdle races,I can’t remember if I have ever been to a meeting where that has happened.
Warwick put on a good show today for racing fans, Clerk of the Course Sulekha Varma is having a mixed bag of a season, Huntingdon is having more floods than what the Gobi desert could only ever dream of having with the big Boxing Day meeting being abandoned but thankfully Warwick is having another good season, the quality of the jumps is always worth following and Sulekha is really going places and a move to a bigger course,hopefully my local Haydock will come sooner rather than later.
For many the star of the show was old warrior Carruthers, 11 years old yet he ran the race of his life today in the Classic Chase showing that his heart is still in the game,he does need dropping a few pounds but no horse deserves a bigger win than him this season, As much as I would love to see him take on those big Aintree greens in April I know lots of people would shudder at such a thought but if Long Run goes too he would get a tasty weight which could be hard to resist.
Today was one of those days that makes you remember why you love National Hunt racing,the thrills and spills,the tumbles and the battles up the straight showed the sport at its finest today.
Next up for me will be Haydock next Saturday for the Peter Marsh Chase and Champion Hurdle Trial, until then thank you for reading.
Below, Coming in after the last
Below,Uncle Jimmy wins the Pertemps Race
Below,Rathvinded in disgrace.