A record £183,000 in prize money will be up for grabs at Warwick’s Betfred Classic Chase Day on Saturday, the course’s richest meeting of the season, writes David Hucker.
Officials are hoping to start 2018 with a bang with the prize fund for the feature race, one of four being broadcast live on ITV4, being increased from £60,000 to £75,000.
The trip of three miles and five furlongs in the Classic Chase will take a bit of getting in testing ground but one who is guaranteed to stay is the veteran Russe Blanc, the only white horse in training, who finished ninth last year. One of three entries for Herefordshire trainer Kerry Lee, Russe Blanc has seen his rating drop 7lb since then, putting him back to the same mark as when springing a 20-1 surprise in the race in 2016.
On The Road was an early faller in last Saturday’s Welsh Grand National and has not won over this trip and another who looks to have a lot on his plate is Ptit Zig, who is the class act of the race but has a big weight to carry.
As well as the big one, there will be plenty of interest in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, won last year by Willoughby Court, who went on to score at the Cheltenham Festival. His trainer Ben Pauling has entered two in the shape of Carlos Du Fruitier, a faller at Doncaster in December, and Equus Secretus, a dual winner in November but well beaten when stepped up in grade at Cheltenham last time.
Nigel Twiston-Davies also has two entries with Calett Mad, who disappointed when favourite at Cheltenham in a similar race, and Count Meribel who was chasing a four-timer when going down over a longer trip at the Gloucestershire course but could make all the running here.
The hurdle and flat races will be run on the inner course, in use for the first time this season, meaning that four of the seven races will be on fresh ground.
“This fixture is always the standout raceday on our calendar and this year a record amount of prize money will be on offer for the high quality field in the Betfred Classic Chase,” said general manager Andre Klein.
“It was incredible to see last year’s winner One For Arthur go on to win the Grand National, his victory emphasising the high calibre horse that will be racing at Warwick on the day.
Alongside the top action on the course, we will be recognising the incredible history of horse racing with our memorabilia show. We would love for people on the day to bring along any artefacts they have to make the display even more impressive.”