L’Ami Serge bids for a hat-trick of chase wins in Warwick’s feature race on Saturday with owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede hoping to add him to their already strong hand for next month’s Cheltenham Festival, writes David Hucker.
The Kingmaker Novices’ Chase carries a prize fund of £40,000, making it the second richest race run at the course.
Among previous winners is Long Run, who was successful in 2010 before landing the following season’s Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, beating Denman and Kauto Star.
Another former course winner Vibrato Valtat took last year’s contest and has continued on an upward curve, landing Exeter’s big race of the season, the Sportingbet Haldon Gold Cup Chase, in November.
The Kingmaker, which will be televised on Channel 4, has been the target for former top-class novice hurdler L’Ami Serge since his win at Wetherby four weeks ago and trainer Nicky Henderson is keen for him to gain more experience before Cheltenham, where his likely target will be the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Munir and Souede have used Warwick in the Cheltenham build-up for another of their exciting novice chasers Bristol De Mai, who jumped well when making all the running in November and is an intended runner in the JLT Novices’ Chase. In addition, their juvenile hurdlers Sceau Royal and Fixe Le Kap, also both winners at the course, are leading fancies for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Supporting the big race is the OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle (Listed Race) over two miles and five furlongs, also shown on Channel 4. Last year, leading Irish trainer Willie Mullins sent over the classy Glens Melody to win by seven lengths.
Glens Melody has since been retired but Mullins still has a strong hand in this year’s event with three of the nine entries, the highest rated of which is Morning Run, third on her latest start at Doncaster.
Surtee Du Berlais, second at the last meeting after giving 12lb in weight to the winner, and the diminutive Cannon Fodder, who ran her heart out to be third to the high-class Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot, could lead the home challenge.
Racecourse manager Andre Klein believes the chance to cast an eye over leading Festival contenders will make for another successful day at the re-energised course.
He said: “The Kingmaker Chase Day is regarded as one of the leading trials for the Cheltenham Festival and once again promises to attract a top-quality field with the chance of star chasers of the future making a name for themselves here.
“We’ve started the year really strongly and the atmosphere on the course has been fantastic.
“It’s been hugely encouraging that we’ve attracted people back to the course who haven’t been for a while, and likewise I know we’ve had lots of new racegoers join us who have left having had a great day out.”