Dan and Harry Skelton were the combination to follow at Warwick’s Executive Hire Raceday on Wednesday, landing a first and last race double, writes David Hucker.
Despite facing 16 rivals, Walking In The Air was sent off the red-hot 2-5 favourite to take the opening MHM Maiden Hurdle.
A course winner in a National Hunt Flat Race a year ago, Walking In The Air had been runner-up in his last two starts over hurdles and, on form, looked head and shoulders above the others.
Taken straight into the lead by Harry Skelton, he was never seriously challenged, with a mistake at the last flight the only moment of anxiety for his supporters.
There was another short-priced favourite in the following JCB Novices’ Hurdle in Drumlee Sunset, who had been mixing it in better company. Richard Johnson was determined to test his rivals from the outset, setting a good pace on the 8-13 market leader and Drumlee Sunset ran on strongly in the home straight, jumping the last two flights well clear of the rest to post a 17-length success.
The Brandon Hire Group Novices’ Handicap Chase (for the Stephen Allday Perpetual Plate) went to 10-1 shot Epic Warrior, the only runner on the card for Somerset trainer David Pipe.
Epic Warrior was brought with a well-timed run by Conor O’Farrell to join Heroes Or Ghosts at the penultimate fence and, despite a mistake at the last, went clear on the run-in for a comfortable success.
Front-running tactics again paid off in the Ricoh Arena Handicap Hurdle when Ceann Sibheal and Gavin Sheehan proved too strong for their rivals, pulling out more when Talk Of The South came to challenge at the third-last flight and staying on well to follow up their Lingfield Park win.
The mares’ handicap hurdle turned out to be a dramatic contest. Jean Fleming had made all the running until being joined by The Last Bar as the runners turned for home and they came to the last hurdle together, with Chantara Rose just behind.
But, the complexion of the race changed when The Last Bar took a heavy fall, leaving Chantara Rose to stay on past the tiring Jean Fleming, with Dubh Eile running on to take third.
Mission Complete has been beaten 22 times since winning at Worcester in June 2014, but he was always travelling well for claiming jockey Jack Savage in the Executive Hire News Passionate Industry Voice Handicap Chase.
The largest field of the afternoon lined up in the concluding National Hunt Flat Race and it was Irish point-to-point winner Robin Roe who was favourite to round off the afternoon for the Skelton brothers and, after leading around the home bend, he was always holding the chasing pack.