Just four lined up for the feature Highflyer/Million In Mind 4 & 5YO Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Wednesday and short-priced favourite Ptit Zig proved far too good for his rivals, winning in a canter for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, writes David Hucker.
With a prize fund of £15,000, this is one of the course’s richest races but it consistently fails to attract runners, with only four going to post in 2013.
Previously confined to four-year-olds, it was opened up to horses a year older in a bid to boost the field size but to no avail.
With Ptit Zig going off at prohibitive odds of 2-11, some bookmakers were betting on the distance he would win by and those who guessed at 12 lengths collected as Sam Twiston-Davies eased him past leader Arthur’s Secret at the second-last fence to go clear.
Despite having finished down the field at Cheltenham on Sunday, Jayo Time was sent off the well-backed 5-4 favourite to take the opening Warwick Racecourse Handicap Hurdle for trainer Dr Richard Newland.
He was always in touch with the leaders on the inside but, when Christopher Ward pressed the button, Jayo Time failed to find another gear, eventually finishing third to Mont Royale, who made all the running for a surprise 20-1 win.
Five went to post for the TurfTV Novices’ Handicap Chase over two-and-a-half miles and there was a gamble on The Flying Column from the Alvechurch stable of Ian Williams, being backed from 6-1 in the morning to 11-4 on the course.
In an open-looking race, he shared favouritism with Merchant Of Milan but punters got it completely wrong as it was 7-1 shot De Kerry Man who stayed on strongly from the turn for home to see off the challenges of Silvergrove and Coeur De Fou and give Sam Jones his first winner of the season after a spell riding in America.
There was an uneasy market leader in the following racinguk.com Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in the shape of Maybe Plenty, who drifted from 6-4 to 2-1, but she belied the lack of confidence in the betting ring to make all the running and coast home from Triumph Davis, with the rest of the field strung out a long way behind.
With 18 runners, the racinguk.com “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle produced the largest field of the day and the easiest winner.
After the hard-pulling Risk A Fine had cut out the early running, Aso jumped into the lead four flights from home and went further and further away to score by 15 lengths.
At three-and-a-quarter miles, the Dine In The 1707 Restaurant Handicap Chase was the longest race on the card and, as so often happens, it produced the closest of finishes - just a neck - as top-weight Chac Du Cadran ran on gallantly to deny The Last Bridge.
In the finale, Lady Persephone collared leader Lamanver Alchemy two furlongs out to go five lengths clear in the hands of Richard Johnson.