After the record New Year’s Eve crowd, Warwick officials are hoping for another bumper attendance tomorrow for Betfred Classic Chase Day, the course’s richest meeting of the season, writes David Hucker.
With over £160,000 in prize money up for grabs and television coverage on ITV4, the meeting sees Warwick in the national spotlight and general manager Andre Klein is looking forwarding forward to another busy afternoon.
“We were thrilled to attract what was a huge crowd on New Year’s Eve, well up on the great attendance we had the previous year,” said Klein.
“It will be a great opportunity to see some top quality horses who could go on to become household names in the near future, and indeed might challenge at the Randox Health Grand National in April.”
Run over the marathon trip of three miles and five furlongs, the £60,000 Betfred Classic Handicap Chase is a real test of endurance for both horse and jockey and, with 34 entries, a big field looks in prospect.
Last year, just five finished, headed by Russe Blanc, the only white horse in training, who ran on strongly to beat Midnight Prayer, who looked to have his measure approaching the final fence. His form figures since that win do not make for happy reading and it would take a real stretch of the imagination to see him scoring again.
The runner-up has also had mixed fortunes since and, in an open contest, preference is for Vivaldi Collonges, who is clearly talented, but needs to step up on a disappointing seasonal debut, and Doctor Harper, who signalled a return to his best form when just touched off by Tour Des Champs at Cheltenham.
Gordon Elliott, who leads this year’s Irish title race, has entered Runfordave, who had just taken the lead when falling at the penultimate flight at Limerick on Boxing Day, in the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Leamington Hurdle). He may struggle to cope, however, with the in-form Peregrine Run, trained in County Kildare by Peter Fahey, who would be looking to notch his fifth win in a row.
Despite veering off a straight line in the run-in, O O Seven was a clear-cut winner on his chasing debut at Cheltenham in November.
He disappointed when sent off odds-on favourite to follow up at Doncaster last month, but still sets the standard in the Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race).
He has an alternative engagement at Huntingdon on Friday and, in his absence, it could pay to side with Champers On Ice, who has two entries at the Cheltenham Festival and should find the three-mile trip right up his street.