Another large crowd turned out for Mardi Gras Party Night at a sunny Warwick on Saturday when dual Grand National-winning jockey Leighton Aspell and Warwickshire-based Harry Skelton were both in double-winning form, writes David Hucker.
Skelton was aboard Benissimo, trained by his brother Dan, in the opening Luke Purvis 21st Birthday Celebration Novices’ Hurdle and they made all the running to score by ten lengths from Wait A Second, who deprived All Together of the runners-up spot close home.
Virgilio, who had not seen a racecourse for 500 days, made it a quick Skelton family double in the feature £10,000 Midshires Business Systems - Office Technology Handicap Hurdle. Leading approaching the home turn, he soon put daylight between himself and his pursuers, led by Handazan.
Just four faced the starter in the Whites Of Coventry - All Things Metal Novices’ Chase over two-and-a-half miles and there was a warm favourite in Kayf Moss, who was looking to add to his three wins over hurdles for trainer John Flint.
Monkey Kingdom from the Welsh stable of Rebecca Curtis was pulled up behind stable companion Irish Cavalier at the Cheltenham Festival on his last run, but this was a much easier task. Ridden by the in-form Aspell, who had won the first two races at Market Rasen the day before, Monkey Kingdom went past Kayf Moss at the fifth fence and was always in command from thereon.
Nine set out in the fourth, a handicap hurdle, with Easy Beesy sent off favourite to return to winning form after finishing third at Newbury last time out. Ashbrittle, having just his second outing for the Neil King stable and running for the first time for 581 days, was also well supported in the market.
Having led into the straight, Ashbrittle looked to have lost his chance as Brave Helios and Easy Beesy went past him at the last flight, but he responded to the urgings of Trevor Whelan to get back up close home.
Thinger Licht made a quick reappearance after winning at Worcester on Thursday in the conditional jockeys’ handicap chase. Although holding every chance in the home straight, he could not peg back Moorlands George, who had jumped to the front at the third last fence and ran on strongly to win by a length.
In the maiden hurdle, the always prominent Clancy’s Cross held off the challenge of Mad About The Boy to give Aspell and Curtis their double on the night.
McKenzie’s Friend was a warm order in the betting to make it a treble for Aspell in the finale, but he could not match the pace of second favourite Burlington Bert.
Costing €160,000, Call To Order would be one of the most expensive horses to have run at Warwick in a race of this type and he showed promise for the future when running on to deprive the favourite of second place in the final furlong.