Sceau Royal ready for coronation at Warwick's Winter Warmer meeting
Sceau Royal goes for his third course win in Warwick's Highflyer/Million In Mind Novices' Chase tomorrow afternoon, the highlight of a seven-race card on Winter Warmer Raceday, writes David Hucker.
Successful over hurdles as a juvenile, Sceau Royal made a winning debut over fences when beating Ballyhill over course and distance in October. He subsequently failed by a neck to give weight to the useful North Hill Harvey at Cheltenham but, with the winner scoring again at the course on Sunday, he clearly faced a stiff task that day.
Immediately after Cheltenham, trainer Alan King nominated tomorrow’s contest as the next target for Sceau Royal and, with just one opponent, he looks to have an excellent chance of getting back on the winning trail. Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede also have a promising novice on the other side of the Irish Sea in easy Navan scorer Footpad and it will be an interesting contest should the two clash at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
However, nothing can be taken for granted, as the fall of the stable’s Yanworth at Exeter last week shows but, on all known form, Sceau Royal should win this as he climbs to the top of the novice chase rankings.
The PJ & KR Smith-Maxwell Horse Ambulances “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle over two miles kicks off the action at 12.35pm and this could go to the lightly-raced Santo De Lune, trained by Dan Skelton, who will be making his first appearance since last December when finishing runner-up at Bangor-on-Dee.
Course ambassador Skelton hit a century of winners when Destrier scored at Leicester on Monday and has been operating at a 21 per cent strike rate over the last two weeks. He had led the trainers’ table from the very first day of the season back in May, but had to give way over weekend to his mentor Paul Nicholls who, despite training fewer winners, has been hitting the bullseye in some valuable races of late.
Sister Sibyl, who was last seen out in a competitive mares’ hurdle at Newbury in March, looks fairly rated for her debut over fences in the following Whitson Bloodstock Ltd Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase. With trainer Neil Mulholland and jockey Noel Fehily in treble-winning form at Plumpton yesterday, it would be no surprise to see Meribel Millie improve on her first try over the bigger obstacles when she was let down by some sloppy jumping.
Now with her third trainer, Molly The Dolly could open her account on her debut for the Skeltons in the Thoroughbred Breeders Association Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the expense of Ginge De Sophia.
The high-class Lady Rebecca was victorious seven times at Cheltenham on her way to notching up a career record of 13 wins from her 19 starts. Apart from her debut race, she was trained throughout her career by Venetia Williams who now has charge of her daughter Lady Karina who makes her handicap debut in the Biggest Jumps Season on Racing UK Handicap Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs.
She should run well but could find the race-fit Inn The Bull, third in a competitive contest at the last meeting, too good on the day.
Just six line up for the day’s longest race, the Racing UK Jump To It Handicap Chase over an extended three miles and a furlong but it looks an open contest in which Tommy The Rascal, second in a small novice chase over the course in March, is no more than a hopeful selection.
Cuckoo’s Calling sets the standard in the concluding David Nicholson Memorial Fillies’ ‘Junior’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.
Of the unraced entries, the one to watch could be Wilde Spirit, whose trainer Alan King learnt his trade from Nicholson and always tries to have one horse ready to take this prize.