It was Warwick’s big raceday of their season and despite the very windy conditions the show carried on in what was traditional jump racing conditions.
The rain during the week thankfully didn’t mean that any obstacles had to be bypassed on what was Soft ground.
Some good racing was on offer with a real mix of races to challenge even the most bravest of punters.
Feature races included the Grade Two Leamington Hurdle and the Grade Three Classic Chase on what is Channel 4s only visit here when they bring the lorry up the M40
12.45 Betfred Goals Galore Novices’ Handicap Hurdle,Class 4,2m,8 flights,4yo+ (0-110)
Not the best of openers which went to local trainer Ben Case with the 6yo Vesuvhill who took full advantage of Avel Vor making a mistake at the second last which knocked the stuffing out of him and this allowed the winner to close up and go on after the last
This was a lot better from the winner who hasn’t show that much this season but going handicapping helped him, Avel Vor is consistent but has an allergy to winning races over here since joining the Hobbs team from France.
1.20 Betfred ‘January Sale’ Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m,12 fences,5yo+ (0-135)
Run for the Edward Courage Cup the trophy had a quick break from the Venetia Williams yard to promptly go back again after Upepito got his first win on British soil on his third start under Liam Treadwell.
Coming to the second last fence it was Keel Haul who led under James Davies from three out but then he had a quick look behind him and noticed Upepito was bearing down on him and wore him down in the last half furlong to get on top.
Upepito is getting the hang of things over British fences and could be aimed at something like the Grand Annual or the Red Rum Chase later in the spring
Favourite Greywell Boy was in third and still looks held by the handicapper.
1.55 Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices’ Chase,Listed,3m110yds,5yo+
Elevated to Listed status this race had plenty of progressive young staying steeplechasers in the line up including last years Leamington Hurdle winner Deputy Dan.
The pace was fairly decent from the outset and Grand Vision took them along making some real stag leaps as he attacked the fences with relish, a few of them made mistakes on a track where you certainly can’t afford to.
Turning for home Grand Vision had three behind him,Deputy Dan,Mosspark and Sego Success who were all being pushed along then after two out Sego Success took dead aim at the leader and went in front at the final fence and kept up to his work to score, Grand Vision stayed on in second and Deputy Dan was third.
Sego Success was being talked about going for the Four Miler at the Festival, he certainly looks like being aimed at races like the Welsh National next season and is a stayer who works hard.
Grand Vision has ability but maybe better going into a handicap and Deputy Dan who was giving the field 4lb ran well considering but could be better dropped on distance.
2.25 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,3m2f,12 flights,5yo+
Another qualifier in this popular series which saw eleven go to post with the top eight finishers guaranteed to be entered in the final at the Thursday of the Festival,this qualifier was very competitive.
Jonjo O’Neill’s resurgence from a lean spell continues as Join The Clan gave Patrick Cowley (7) his first win as a jockey as he sleuced home here,taking over from long time leader Closing Ceremony who was coming here from two previous Haydock wins, the winner was always travelling well and recorded a 3.75 length win.
Join The Clan should turn up for the final and could be in the shake up,Closing Ceremony ran a game race in defeat and will make a nice chaser next season, Vandross ran a PB here but needs to be found the ideal trip for him to win.
Only six completed with the others being Top Wood,Handazan and Big Hands Harry who all qualify for the final.
3.00 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 2,2m5f,11 flights,5yo+
Plenty of good potential on show here in a race that has a rich illumine of top class horses taking it on their way to even bigger days.
The short priced favourite for this was the Warren Greatrex trained Shantou Bob but he was never travelling well and apparently bled from the nose prior to the race,he is much better than this and came home third just over nine lengths behind the first two home.
At the business end it was Dan Skelton who trains locally in Alcester who secured the prize but he had a real battle on his hands as Three Musketeers held off the danger of Ballagh.
The winner travelled and jumped well under brother Harry Skelton,he is reported to be missing Cheltenham and going to Aintree instead either for the 2m4f or 3m novice event there, He is only a 5yo so could go down the staying hurdle route unless they embark on a chasing career.
Ballagh in second cost £125,000 after winning a Navan bumper, he should pick up a novice soon and looks a good purchase for Ben Case.
3.35 Betfred Classic Chase (Hcap) Grade 3,3m5f,22 fences,5yo+
A real wide open looking marathon contest with a few former winners of this race including some wily old veterans and developing stayers.
Fourteen went to post for this and only seven completed and yet again like so many big chases this season it was the Paul Nicholls yard to took another Classic Chase this time with Hawkes Point who was last sighted pulling up in the Welsh National and the application of first time blinkers worked the oracle.
Despite being a 10yo he is very lightly raced and this was only his eleventh start over fences, he travelled sweetly throughout the race and was happy under Sam Twiston Davies as the race unfolded.
It paid to be prominent in this race,last years winner and eventual third Shotgun Paddy was up with the pace ran his best race of the season, Theatrical Star came second today,he seems to reserve his best for tracks in the West Country so was probably bewildered by the Brummie ones today,he has a nice race in him somewhere
Fourth placed Sixty Something ran well but may be better down in trip and looks ideal for the Grimthorpe at Doncaster, Carruthers came a distant fifth but could be better in Veterans chases.
The favourite Return Spring was always struggling in this and needs more time and a drop back to novice events,maybe even a return to hurdles will help.
As for Hawkes Point this was a much deserved win for him,he was down the field at Aintree last year so maybe Ayr will be a better option
4.05 Betfred TV “Newcomers” National Hunt Flat Race,Class 6,2m,4-6yo
The traditional closing race of the day,the ‘Wood Ditton Bumper’ had a steady enough pace but the finish involved two horses who were still as green as the Incredible Hulk is when he gets his winter energy bill!
Phillip Hobbs finally got a winner as the mare Copper Kay responded to the challenge of the Alan King trained Big Chief Benny to hold of by 1.5 lengths.
Real Gone Kid was 18 lengths third bit could not respond to the injection of pace from the front two, fourth went to George Herbert who made a fair amount of the running and will have learnt a lot.
Hard to know what to make but the first two look ok and should have a future when sent hurdling in time.
A top day of racing then with a few clues for Cheltenham and Aintree hopefully discovered for the festivals.
Warwick once again put on a good show and it’s always good to be here for their big day in the sun.
Next Saturday it’s Haydock with the Peter Marsh Chase and Champion Hurdle Trial although given the various weather forecast for Northern England that could but hopefully not change.
Till next week,Goodbye and a belated Happy New Year to you all.