Warwick enjoyed its largest attendance since 1997 for the start of the Qatar Airways May Racing Carnival, with 6,686 basking in the bank holiday sunshine, writes David Hucker.
And it proved a red-letter day for leading owner JP McManus and jockey Richie McLernon, who landed a double, including the day’s big race.
The green and yellow hoops of McManus are familiar colours on British and Irish racecourses and McLernon could be spotted going easily on 16-1 shot Easy Street as the runners turned out of the back straight in the feature Qatar Airways Handicap Chase.
Although Pretty Reckless threatened over the final fence, the result was never in doubt as Easy Street strolled away on the run-in for a seven-length success, completing a quick double for owner and jockey, having taken the previous race with Hargam.
A useful juvenile hurdler when trained by Nicky Henderson, Hargam was switched to the Yorkshire yard of John Quinn last October but did not immediately show any improvement, being pulled up in his last two starts. Racing on better ground this time, he returned to his best, having too much pace from the last fence for Free Stone Hill, who had travelled well throughout the race and had every chance turning for home.
It has been onwards and upwards for Dan Skelton since setting up as a trainer on the family farm in Warwickshire and he left the course with two winners to add to his already burgeoning total this campaign in the shape of Gortroe Joe and the well-backed Bandsman, both ridden by his brother Harry.
Gortroe Joe, who had made all the running after jumping to the front at the first flight, held on by half a length at the line to deny Huntingdon winner Lungarno Palace in the opening Olly Murphy Racing Novices’ Hurdle. Skelton followed up when 13-8 favourite Bandsman, who had been 14-1 in the racecard betting forecast, ran right away with the Visit The All New racinguk.com Handicap Hurdle in the style of an improving horse.
Bumper winner Simply The Betts had failed to follow up in four runs over hurdles, but he put the record straight when cruising into the lead with Daryl Jacob approaching the penultimate flight and proving far too good for his rivals the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.
The Henry J Socks Ltd Handicap Hurdle was divided, with Ring Minella coming out on top in a thrilling finish to the first division and Hoo Bally Diva wearing down favourite Hollow Park to take the second.
Saturday sees the second leg of the carnival with Ladies Night, featuring live music and entertainment, including a leading Robbie Williams tribute act. There will also be a new competition, ‘Fashions On The Field’, with two Qatar Airways economy class return flights from Birmingham to Doha among the prizes.
The seven-race card gets underway at 5.30pm, with the feature being the Class 3 Lawton Tubes Centenary Handicap Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs.