It is Classic Chase Day at Warwick on Saturday and, following the bumper crowd on New Year’s Eve, there should be another good turnout as the course celebrates past winners of its most valuable race of the season, writes David Hucker.
Now named the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Chase, the race has attracted 25 entries, including 2018 victor Milansbar whose bold front-running display was one of a number of high-profile winners that helped launch the career of Bryony Frost.
Milansbar then had two more races when ridden by different jockeys before being reunited with Frost in the Randox Health Grand National where he finished fifth to Tiger Roll.
He ran from a rating of 134 last year when disposing of another of Saturday’s entries Cogry but is now on a mark of 140 and was well-beaten on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown Park last month.
Trainer Lucinda Russell had earmarked the race for 2017 winner One For Arthur to make his comeback from injury but he has not been entered and the key horse looks to be Rocky’s Treasure, who was priced up as favourite when the entries came out on Monday but who also holds an engagement in the earlier Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race), the first of four races to be shown live on ITV4.
Trained by Kim Bailey, Rocky’s Treasure has already won four races this season, scoring by 17 lengths at Doncaster last time, with his only defeat coming when runner-up to the highly-rated Santini at Newbury at the beginning of December.
There is a total of £187,000 up for grabs across the seven-race card, with £75,000 on offer for the feature.
With the Cheltenham Festival now just over two months away, there will also be interest in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle to be run over a trip of two miles and five furlongs.
Point-to-Point winner Birchdale made a successful Rules debut in the familiar colours of leading owner JP McManus when beating stable companion Clarendon Street by four lengths over course and distance last month, earning a quote from Paddy Power of 20-1 for the Festival in March.
He heads the early market for Saturday but dual hurdles winner Tidal Flow, trained by Philip Hobbs, looks to have a bit in hand.
The meeting opens with the Trial Racing TV For Free Now Novices’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles, which is followed by the Class 3 racingtv.com Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase, run in memory of one of racing’s most successful owner/trainers who sent out a host of winners from his base at Edgcote near Banbury, notably dual Cheltenham Champion Chase victor Royal Relief and Spanish Steps.
Gates open at 10.40am, two hours ahead of the first race and there is ample free parking in the centre of the course.
Tickets start from £12.50 per person