Air of expectation at Warwick as racegoers warm up for Festival

Rigadin De Beauchene is well handicapped for Sunday's feature at Warwick.
Rigadin De Beauchene is well handicapped for Sunday's feature at Warwick.
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Next week sees the pinnacle of the jump racing season with the four-day Cheltenham Festival and, locally, racegoers can get into the mood when Warwick hosts its traditional curtain raiser on Sunday in aid of the Air Ambulance Service, writes David Hucker.

The day starts with a preview of the Festival in the Paddock Pavilion, with Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire and racecourse ambassador and top trainer Dan Skelton returning to the panel.

As well as seven races, the themed day has entertainment for all the family with pony rides, stilts walkers, falcons, ferret racing, shire horses and an acoustic band.

With £18,000 in the kitty, the Six Nations Rugby At 188Bet Handicap Chase tops the racing bill and, with three miles and five furlongs to travel in testing ground, the race could be tailor-made for course winner Rigadin De Beauchene. While not the force of old, he would run from an official rating of 123 on Sunday compared to his last winning mark of 127 when successful at Haydock Park in December 2015.

Another dropping back down the weights is Vice Et Vertu, who disappointed when favourite behind Muckle Rose here in December, but who would be at the right end of the handicap on what will be a stamina-sapping contest.

“Warwick’s reputation as a strong proving ground for The Festival is well known across the industry and the Air Ambulance Countryside Day serves as a great warm-up to Cheltenham,” said general manager Andre Klein.

“We’re delighted to be supporting the Air Ambulance Service with this raceday for the second year and the charity has organised a fantastic Cheltenham preview which is proving to be hugely popular.”

A ticket to the Cheltenham preview with the expert panel costs £75 per person and includes prime racing viewing from a private marquee, drinks reception, a two course lunch and a tipster session. To book tickets, email tracy.grunwell@theairambulance.org.uk or call 07825 634103.

Gates open at 12.20pm, with the first race at 2.20pm.

General admission is £15 if booked by midnight on March 11 and £20 on the day.

www.warwickracecourse.co.uk.