With more rain and freezing overnight temperatures forecast, clerk of the course Jane Hedley has covered the majority of the track on Wednesday to give tomorrow’s Betfred Classic Chase Day, the richest in Warwick’s racing calendar, every chance of beating the weather, writes David Hucker.
There was a crowd of close to 5,000 for the New Year’s Eve meeting and officials are hoping to build on that success. General manager Andre Klein is looking forward to tomorrow, saying: “This is one of the most exciting fixtures in our calendar and a fantastic way to get racing at Warwick under way in 2016.
“The quality of the racing and level of prize money at this meeting will attract some very good horses including some who could go on to be household names at the biggest races later in the season.”
The highlight of the afternoon is the £60,000 Betfred Classic Chase, staged over a distance of three miles and five furlongs and won last year by Hawkes Point, who beat Theatrical Star and the 2014 winner Shotgun Paddy.
The 2013 winner Rigadin De Beauchene was pulled up last year, but bounced back to form at Haydock Park recently. He has been penalised 6lb for that success and may struggle off his new mark.
Both Black Thunder and Red Devil Lads came down in last Saturday’s Coral Welsh National at Chepstow and would need to jump better here. Course winner Midnight Prayer had been an intended runner at the Welsh track before being ruled out by coughing.
Trainer Alan King had been worried about the bottomless going at Chepstow and, although the ground is likely to be pretty testing tomorrow, Midnight Prayer gets the vote in what is a tough contest to call.
Also on the card is the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Leamington Novices’ Hurdle Race) won last year by Three Musketeers from the successful stable of course ambassador Dan Skelton.
This year, Skelton hopes to win the race with Born Survivor, successful in his only point-to-point in Ireland before making a winning debut under Rules at the course last month.
Born Survivor is in the same ownership as Three Musketeers and, while both Open Eagle and Thomas Hobson from the powerful Willie Mullins stable would be serious challengers, there is every chance that lightning will strike twice.
Another race to savour is the Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race) over three miles for which Mullins has three entries, including impressive Punchestown scorer Pont Alexandre.
The action kicks off at 12.40pm with the Betfred “Goals Galore” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and the Betfred TV “Newcomers” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race finale brings the meeting to a close at 4.10pm.
Gates will open two hours before the first race.