Templehills and Chirico Vallis set to battle it out in Warwick feature

Sam Twiston-Davies with the connections of Templehills after the first of the horse's two victories at Fakenham.
Sam Twiston-Davies with the connections of Templehills after the first of the horse's two victories at Fakenham.

Warwick stages the second meeting of the course’s new 2018-19 season on Thursday, when the highlight of the afternoon is the Class 3 Colliers International Rating Services Handicap Chase over two-and-a-half miles, writes David Hucker.

Cotswold trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies had ten entries in all across the six-race card and has chosen course and distance winner Templehills in the feature. He has been allotted 12-2 in what looks a wide-open handicap and has to give 9lb in weight to dual chase winner Chirico Vallis.

Owned by JP McManus, Neil Mulholland’s runner has fallen in two of his six chases although might be forgiven for struggling to keep pace with the highly-rated Saint Calvados, when making mistakes and coming down at the sixth fence at Newbury in December.

There is also a good prize on offer for the Ignite Incentives Handicap Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs in which ten-times winner Play The Ace reverts to hurdles after being unplaced over fences at Perth last month. He has won two novice events this year, including beating Motueka at Southwell, and that horse boosted the form when winning at Newton Abbot on Monday.

He does not look over-burdened from a mark of 125 and appears to have Kentford Heiress, who always runs a good race, to beat.

Course ambassador Dan Skelton runs Desirable Court, a winner over hurdles when trained by Alan King, from his two entries in the UBS Beginners’ Chase. Formerly owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, she was a wide-margin winner at Newton Abbot on her racecourse debut, having won her only point-to-point in Ireland and should make a bold show here.

However, the one that catches the eye is multiple hurdle winner Maria’s Benefit, who was rated at 152 at her peak from and, if taking to fences, should have too much class for Desirable Court and the only other runner Knocknanuss, another with winning form in point-to-points.

Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy runs General Custard from his two entries in the opening Wee Maggie Dixte 50th Birthday “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle over two miles. Champion jockey Richard Johnson again takes the ride, having been on board when General Custard was pulled up on his last run at the course in March.

Nigel Twiston-Davies also had two entries in the race and has elected to run Topofthecotswolds, runner-up to Murphy’s Itchy Feet in a Stratford bumper last month. With the winner having made a successful debut over hurdles this week, that form could be good enough to see him win here.

Nine have been declared for the Penguin Pay Maiden Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs and it might be worth taking a chance with point-to-point winner Little Miss Darsi, who makes her Rules debut for trainer Charlie Mann.

Newton Abbot winner Hoponandsee was runner-up to Kristal Hart at Stratford and, with the winner scoring again at Warwick’s opening meeting last week, must have a chance from bottom weight in the concluding ROA/Racing Post Owners’ Jackpot Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles.

Soiesauvage won from a handicap mark of 86 at Uttoxeter a year ago and returned to the course to record her second victory off an effective rating of 102 last month. She has been put up to a new handicap mark of 107 but, even with her penalty, she runs from 99 here, so it is not surprising that trainer Sophie Leech is looking to strike while the iron is hot.