Thaw comes too late to save Warwick’s Christmas meeting

Warwick Racecourse on Tuesday before the thaw set in. Picture: Mike Baker
Warwick Racecourse on Tuesday before the thaw set in. Picture: Mike Baker

The recent snowy weather claimed this afternoon’s Eventmasters Christmas at the Races at Warwick when the meeting was abandoned after the course failed its third inspection, writes David Hucker.

With temperatures rising yesterday, the snow started to thaw and, after walking the track early in the morning and again in the afternoon, officials decided to take another look early this morning.

But the track was still not raceable and the meeting was abandoned with clerk of the course Jane Hedley reporting: “There has been no further improvement overnight. Areas of patchy snow remain on the back straight on top of ground which is already heavy.”

Despite the disappointment of losing the meeting, officials will have been pleased with the progress of the horses, all owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, that have taken the Highflyer/Million in Mind Novices’ Chase over the last three years.

This year’s winner Sceau Royal only had one rival to beat when winning the valuable prize last month, but he stepped up in class to land the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park at the weekend and now heads for the Cheltenham Festival with a live chance.

The 2016 winner Top Notch was favourite to land the rearranged Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Taunton yesterday, but the biggest impact of all has been made by 2015 victor Bristol De Mai, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is in line for a £1m bonus after landing the first leg of the jumps Triple Crown with an emphatic win at Haydock Park where he registered the largest winning distance (57 lengths) in a Grade 1 chase this century.

Another to add to the Warwick roll of honour is Willoughby Court, a winner at the December meeting last year, who followed up at the course in January before landing the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He is unbeaten in two chases this term and is very much a horse to follow through the season.

Warwickshire-based trainer and jockey Dan and Harry Skelton both look poised to post their best-ever scores with four months of the current campaign still to run.

A double at Fontwell Park on Monday saw Dan Skelton, a course ambassador at Warwick, move into 114 winners, just four short of last season’s best score of 118. Numerically, Skelton is the leading trainer in the country but, with the championship decided on prize money, rather than winners, he has slipped to third place behind ten-times champion Paul Nicholls and Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Brother Harry has ridden 101 winners in each of the last two seasons and the success of Get On The Yager was his 100th of the current campaign and number 512 in a career that has taken off since teaming up with Dan.

Weather permitting, the next meeting will be on New Year’s Eve, for which advance tickets are available from £12.50.