French raiders will face stiffer test in novices’ chase renewal

Rio De Sivola and Richard Johnson on their way to victory in the four-year-old novices' chase at Warwick in the corresponding meeting last year.
Rio De Sivola and Richard Johnson on their way to victory in the four-year-old novices' chase at Warwick in the corresponding meeting last year.

It is an early start at Warwick on Wednesday when the Highflyer/Million In Mind 4 & 5yo Novices’ Chase tops the seven-race card that gets underway at 12.40pm, writes David Hucker.

This valuable race has seen small fields in previous years when restricted to four-year-olds, many of whom came from France where horses jump fences earlier in their careers.

Last year, there were just four runners, with outsider Rio De Sivola, one of three French-bred horses in the field, triumphing for Devon trainer Nick Williams.

Opening up the race to five-year-olds should see more line up this time and one trainer who likes to have a runner in the race is champion Paul Nicholls.

After a slow start to the season, Nicholls is beginning to hit top form, having a double here at the last meeting and five winners on Saturday, including a treble at his local course Wincanton.

Those wins helped move him up to fourth place in this year’s table.

Stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies was aboard both winners at the last meeting, excelling on the grey Vibrato Valtat in the day’s feature race, the Weatherbys Private Banking Novices’ Chase.

Last season, Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins had his first runner at the course and Gordon Elliott, who often raids tracks such as Perth and Carlisle, brought two horses over for the latest meeting.

He may have been unlucky not to win the opener with Goal, owned by football agent Willie McKay, who was beaten less than a length into fourth place after not getting a clear run out of the back straight.

Elliott will, no doubt, be back at future meetings and this prolific winning stable is always one to watch.

Longest race on next week’s card is the Dine In The 1707 Restaurant Handicap Chase over three-and-a-quarter miles and the meeting finishes at 3.40pm with the David Nicholson Memorial Fillies’ “Junior” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Students will be admitted free on production of a valid NUS card and other racegoers can also save money by booking in advance when the normal main enclosure price of £15 is reduced to £13.50.

There is also a Punters’ Package of admission, racecard, pie, drink and a £2 Tote betting voucher for an all-in price of £27.

Replays of all races at Warwick can be viewed free of charge at www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/video