With multiple champion jockey AP McCoy retiring at the end of the season, the spotlight fell on two of the leading contenders for his crown at Warwick on Monday, with both Richard Johnson and Tom Scudamore looking to have winning chances, writes David Hucker.
Johnson is the most prolific jumps jockey after McCoy, posting a career-best total of 186 winners in 2003/04,and came into the meeting with 137 wins for the current campaign.
He was aboard second-favourite Rayak in the opening novices’ handicap hurdle but a slow jump at the third last flight dropped him out of contention and Johnson could only sit and suffer as Scudamore took the race on 12-1 shot Rathealy.
Always prominent, Rathealy looked to have the race won going to the final hurdle but he jumped awkwardly out to the left and Scudamore did well to get him back on an even keel and see off the challenge of Saffron Prince.
Tribal Dance put up a game front-running display under Dave Crosse to take the novices’ handicap chase, although Ready Token came to mount a strong challenge at the last fence, only to crumple on landing, unseating Daryl Jacob.
It would have been a close call between the two, but Tribal Dance deserved to open his account over fences and give trainer John O’Shea a belated first winner of the season.
With £25,000 in the prize fund, the Local Parking Security Ltd Handicap Chase was the richest race by far across the afternoon’s three meetings and it provided quick compensation for Jacob as he jumped his mount Seventh Sky into the lead at the fourth fence and the pair were always in command from there on, running on well to deny the Scudamore-ridden No Buts by eight lengths.
Johnson had hit the deck from favourite Horizontal Speed at the second fence, but he was back up on his feet to take the ride on the well-backed Heronshaw in the following handicap hurdle.
Never going well from the start, Heronshaw was tailed off behind Rolling Maul, who defied top weight in style to give trainer Peter Bowen his 47th winner of the season.
Cool King was another to make every yard of the running in the handicap chase over three miles and two furlongs, having three lengths to spare over favourite Hi Vic with Lively Baron, another taxing ride for Johnson, bringing up the rear.
Noel Fehily, who rode in the first two races at Kempton, made the dash to Warwick to partner Ballydine in the concluding National Hunt Flat Race, but it was Draytonian who headed the betting to give Johnson a deserved winner on the afternoon.
It was not to be, however, as Draytonian faded out of contention behind Walking In The Air, who put up an impressive performance for the team of Dan and Harry Skelton.