Warwick didn’t need to hold the intended 8am inspection much to the delight of new Clerk Of The Course Jane Hedley who follows the Hamilton Park bound Sulekha Varma in the role here at Historic Warwick.
Seven races with the feature races being the big Grade Two Novice Hurdle and the long distance Classic Chase.
Weather wise it was a bit chilly but thankfully the near four miles of frost covers did the job which meant racing was all set for the go ahead at the courses feature meeting of the jumps season, the ground was heavy but it wasn’t the type that resulted in the mud flying as it had been doing recently,it was hard work for the horses though.
Not a strong race which included several handicap debutants.
Bold Duke finally won his first hurdle at the age of 8 and on his 12th start over timber but he had to work for it and held off 66-1 outsider Red Hott Robbie by three parts of a length, Back At Midnight who actually has won a race came eight lengths back in third
Bold Duke looked to benefit from the drop back to 2m,he likes the heavy,Red Hott Robbie put in a career best but may not find another opportunity to win,Back At Midnight needs relenting from the handicapper,Favourite Polo came right down the field,he has plenty of holes in his form!
1.25 Betfred ‘January Sale’ Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m,12 fences,5yo+ (0-135)
An impressive display of front running by Big Jim who like the winner in the first race benefited from a drop in trip, despite making a mistake at the first ditch and going right at the second last fence he was always in command, Morning Reggie chased him in second but was eight lengths down and couldn’t make the ground up,Ex French chaser Walk In The Mill was back in third.
Big Jim put them to the sword here and got the job done well,going in off 111 he looks likely to get a reasonable hike up, Morning Reggie benefitted with the first time cheekpieces while Walk In The Mill will be better upped in trip.
1.50 Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices’ Chase,Listed,3m,18 fences,5yo+
A tidy looking race of five runners but an effortless win for Black Hercules here as he put in a fine display of jumping and never put a foot wrong, taking over in the lead from the second fence he never saw another horse under Danny Mullins for his uncle Willie Mullins and recorded a first win on his first ride at the track.
Just shy of three lengths back in second was Definetly Red,a winner at Catterick on his chase debut he ran a fine race but was completely outclassed here,the only mare in the race Emily Gray was twenty lengths back in third with a further ten back to Silsol.
Black Hercules looks likely to be going for the 4m chase at the festival and he wasn’t stopping here,he could even be a National horse one year, Definelty Red certainly has potential and could be Towton bound here,Emily Gray got some fair black type here but will be better in mares events, Silsol now looks exposed a bit but a drop back to 2m4f will be better and with his owner being Scottish I’d expect the big novice chase at Ayr on Scottish National day
2.25 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,3m2f,12 flights,5yo+
Plenty of improving sorts here in a competitive qualifier in which the first six will be qualified for the final at Cheltenham.
Flintham hasn’t been too keen over fences as he pulled up on debut at Exeter and after finishing down the field at Cheltenham in a hurdle he bounced back with style under Nico De Boinville by making all despite briefly losing the lead after the last, he rallied to get the better from Pobbles Bay by 0.75 lengths,recent Haydock winner Isaacstown Lad came eleven lengths back in third.
Flintham will head to the final at the festival and with the Bradstocks stable star Coneygree being out it is likely that his half brother will be flying the flag and if it comes up soft and he gets a lead then he could be fair thing but their are more qualifiers to come yet, Pobbles Bay looks a nice type and only 6 he has more to offer over hurdles, Isaacstown Lad looks held here but maybe if a race can be found for him in the north he could win again.
3.00 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 2,2m5f 11 flights,5yo+
A top quality renewal here with plenty of potential on show.
John Gosden probably wished he had a NH license here as Thomas Hobson who ran to a fair level on the flat reaching a rating of 97 bowled out in front under Danny Mullins and just hung on as he got a bit tired coming to the last which he hit but had enough in hand to hold off stable mate Open Eagle by two and a half lengths who in turn was six ahead of Definite Outcome with favourite Born Survivor back in fourth.
Thomas Hobson opened up a good lead when turning down the back straight and this effectively sealed the race,wether he goes to festival is one thing but Aintree could be right up his street for the big 2m4f novice hurdle and it’s possible he could have a spin back on the flat, Open Eagle was given a patient waiting ride and stayed on well enough,he has plenty to offer.
Definite Outcome kept on very well,A crack at the Persian War over further at Haydock next month looks possible and he has lots of scope, Born Survivor came here with a bit of a reputation after costing £220,000 after his Irish Point win,he didn’t pick up when asked
3.35 Betfred Classic Chase,Grade 3,3m5f,22 fences,5yo+
As usual this race was a real slog even though it lacked a bit in quality due to the proximity of the rearranged Welsh National.
A week after her biggest win as a trainer,Kerry Lee got her 14th winner with Russe Blanc,the only white horse in training stayed on dourly in a real survival of the fittest in which only five of the fourteen horses finished.
Favourite Sego Success fell at the second,this meant Wayne Hutchison was able to let it back to the weighing room and watch the rest with a brew in the warm, 2013 winner Rigadin De Beauchenne fell at the 15th, De Kerry Man took a tumble and lay winded when tiring but he safely got up and was led away.
Russe Blanc took over in front with seven to jump and began to grind it out, Midnight Prayer gave chase but a mistake at the 18th proved costly but he had second place guaranteed and was 3.25 lengths second, Dromnea was ridden to get the trip and came third albeit 24 lengths behind, Houblon Des Obeaux came fourth but was never likely to win,Vivaldi Collonges didn’t stay the extra trip.
The winner looks to love a test of stamina,it’s doubtful that he will add Aintree to his target list,Ayr could be a possibility if it comes up very soft.
Midnight Prayer is lightly raced for his age,He could be ideal for veterans races and maybe the Bet365 at Sandown in April, Dromnea looked like he stayed and the Midlands National might be a race for him.
4.05 Betfred TV ‘Newcomers’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 6,2m,4-6yo
The traditional Wood Ditton style finale with some fair types in it.
Thisonetime was a bit green but made a winning debut for trainer John Quinn,grabbing the lead from Cheltenham De Vaige with 2f left he had to be kept up to his work and drifted up the straight eventually finishing the race over on the chase course, he finished six lengths ahead of favourite Opera Rock.
Thisonetime stayed on well and looks useful and will have learnt a lot here,he could end up on the flat at around 1m4-6f unless a hurdles career beckons, Opera Rock is another who will have learnt from this.
As usual a very nice afternoon at Historic Warwick.
Willie Mullins continued his excellent record here as things are looking could be single handildly responsible for making all bookies bankrupt come Cheltenham week.
Kerry Lee is proving to be a more than useful trainer in the making.
Jane Hedley will be more than good at following the line of female clerks at Warwick over recent years.
Walk In The Mill,6yo came 3rd in the second race but looks like 2m4f will suit
Emily Gray,8yo mare,showed why we need a big Graded Mares chase in the spring.
Pobbles Bay,6yo was second in the fourth race and looks 2m6f-3m is his trip.
At time of writing we have snow here so Peter Marsh day at Haydock may be in doubt.
Until then Goodbye