Veteran chaser Incentivise rolled back the years to land the feature race at Warwick’s Horse & Hound Warwickshire Air Ambulance Raceday yesterday, writes David Hucker.
With seven horses failing to finish, the £12,000 Whites - Free Skips For Metal Handicap Chase proved tough going for runners and riders alike.
James Banks sent Krackatoa King to the front seven fences from home but they had nothing left to give when Incentivise came to challenge approaching the second last.
Kerry Lee’s chaser had not run since finishing second here to Paddy The Oscar on New Year’s Eve but he stayed on strongly in the hands of Jamie Moore to deny Grove Silver in a tight finish where, after three miles and five furlongs, just a length covered the first three home.
Former French horse Belami Des Pictons, who was bought for 120,000 euros after winning at Vichy in October, went off favourite to make a winning British debut for trainer Venetia Williams in the opening novices’ hurdle.
He duly landed the gamble, but had to work hard to get past Viva Rafa, who was given an enterprising ride from the front by Ian Popham and only gave way in the final half a furlong.
Trainer Anthony Honeyball saddled two runners in the following EBF/TBA Mares´ Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase but punters were in no doubt as to which held the better chance with Cresswell Breeze a well-backed 2-1 favourite to go one better.
However, the writing was on the wall for her supporters as Aidan Coleman was hard at work halfway down the back straight and it was Centasia who led the field turning for home.
Much as Cresswell Breeze tried, she could not quite close the gap and Centasia held on by a diminishing neck under Denis O’Regan.
Conditional jockey Harry Cobden is making his mark this season since joining champion trainer Paul Nicholls and he brought up his 18th win of the campaign when top-weight Church Field took the Whites - Best Buyers For Copper And Brass Standards Handicap Hurdle by six lengths.
The Colin E Mander Bricklayers 75th Birthday Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle went to Midtech Valentine, who gave Toby Wheeler his third winner at the course from just nine rides when proving too strong for Norse Light.
The biggest field of the afternoon lined up the concluding Children’s Air Ambulance Air Wedding Open Hunters´ Chase, but there was only one horse in it at the finish as Nowurhurlin turned into the home straight in splendid isolation, finishing 12 lengths ahead of the staying-on Lord Heathfield.
There is more racing at the course on Wednesday week when the seven-race card gets underway at 2.10pm.