There was a major upset at Warwick’s Kingmaker meeting on Saturday when favourite Fago fell when in the lead in the day’s feature race, the £40,000 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase, writes David Hucker.
One of Warwick’s biggest jumps meetings of the season, it was touch and go whether it would take place after snow had fallen on the track.
Thankfully, it passed a 10.30am inspection, although the going was heavy and one fence omitted.
All eyes were on former French-trained-chaser Fago, who was fancied to follow up his English debut win at Newbury and go on to Cheltenham Festival success, emulating previous race winners Voy Por Ustedes, Long Run and Finian’s Rainbow.
In the absence of Act Of Kalanisi, the field was reduced to five runners and Fago looked to be going best of them, leading over the third-last fence.
But, he stumbled on landing and fell at the next, leaving the way clear for dual winner Majala to extend his winning run, having just enough left in the tank to repel the late challenge of His Excellency.
Majala’s jockey Jason Maguire later doubled up on Westward Point, trained at Lambourn by Warren Greatrex, when taking the 32Red.com Novices’ Hurdle, beating Ballylifen by a length.
Another jockey in double-winning form was Robert Thornton, who scored on Godsmejudge and Vice Et Vertu.
Godsmejudge had just been touched off by Rigadin De Beauchene in the Betfred Classic Chase over the course last month. But, that race was over three miles and five furlongs and he had a shorter distance to travel here, enabling him to make all the running and beat Keppols Hill.
His next run is likely to be in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, where he will need to stretch his stamina further to see out the demanding four mile trip.
The defeat of Keppols Hill completed a disappointing afternoon at the course for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, following the fall of Fago, but he retained his lead in this year’s title race over Nicky Henderson courtesy of two winners at Newbury.
Vice Et Vertu was making his racecourse debut and it looked significant that Thornton rode the Henry Daly-trained gelding, rather than Rum Expectations from his retaining stable of Alan King.
He made the right choice as, while Rum Expectations was tailed off, after looking to have no chance turning for home, Vice Et Vertu forged clear inside the final furlong to beat I Am Colin by five lengths.
Champion jockey AP McCoy had just two mounts at the meeting, scoring on the second of them, Ma Filleule, in the Grade 2 OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle. He then dashed off by car to Newbury to land the day’s richest race, the Betfair Handicap Hurdle, aboard My Tent Or Yours.
Both were trained by Nicky Henderson, who also scooped Warwick’s third race, the 32Red Casino Handicap Chase with Molotof, ridden by David Bass, who denied Drumshambo a fourth win in a row.