There was a good crowd for Irish Day at Warwick, now established as a traditional curtain-raiser to the annual Cheltenham Festival, writes David Hucker.
The large number of entries had resulted in a good turnout of 71 runners spread across the competitive-looking seven-race card, topped by the £12,000 Whites - Free Skips For Metal Handicap Chase over three miles and five furlongs.
One horse guaranteed to stay the trip was dual course winner Loughalder, who beat Jaunty Journey by nine lengths in the race 12 months ago. Setting off in pursuit of leader Carli King, his cause was not helped by a series of jumping errors and he was a spent force from four fences out, eventually coming home last of the six finishers.
For such a long race, there were few still in contention with a circuit to go as, one by one, challengers to Carli King fell by the wayside and the 33-1 shot strolled home from Fredo and Barton Gift for the easiest of wins.
The opening Connolly’s Red Mills Handicap Hurdle had seen a gamble on course winner Vesuvhill, but those who had joined in the plunge from 10-1 to 6-1 never looked like collecting as he trailed in a well-beaten fifth behind Howaboutnow, who saw off the challenge of Seas Of Green by a neck.
Spirited betting in the second saw Lily Waugh and Mrs Peachy vying for favouritism but, in the race itself, there was only one horse who mattered as Lily Waugh led her rivals a merry dance to defy top weight and win by 18 lengths under Ryan Mahon.
The umbrellas were up as Giveagirlachance looked like springing a 50-1 surprise in the first division of the novices’ hurdle, but she was worn down close home by Take Two, who completed an across-the-card double for Edgecote trainer Alex Hales, for whom Ultimatum Du Roy had scored at Market Rasen ten minutes earlier.
With the weather taking a turn for the better, blue sky and sunshine greeted Hedley Lamarr on his return to the winner’s enclosure, as he became the only winning favourite of the afternoon when taking the second division at odds of 4-11. His supporters had a real fright, however, when he made a bad mistake three flights from home and he only managed to wear down Aston Cantlow on the run-in.
Heurtevent was backed from 15-2 into 4-1 to land the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle but, after leading into the home straight, he found nothing when asked to quicken, eventually finishing third to comfortable winner Tanit River.
The concluding hunter chase was run for the Air Wedding Challenge Trophy, which commemorates one of the many successful chasers trained by John Thorne at Chesterton, and his widow Wendy made the presentation to connections of Pentiffic, who collared long-time leader Sergeant Dick close home.
There is more action at the track next Wednesday, with the first race due off at 2pm.