Violet Dancer sprang one of the shocks of the season when making all the running to land the feature Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
Twelve months ago, Violet Dancer had taken the ultra-competitive Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Newbury and, having switched to fences this season, came into the race with three wins from four outings.
Sent off at 8-1, he was not expected to trouble the long odds-on L’Ami Serge but, ridden by Jamie Moore for his father Gary, well and truly burst the bubble of one of the Cheltenham Festival leading fancies.
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins is becoming a regular visitor to Warwick and he took the opening Caroline Bermingham & Claire Gibbs Birthday Novices’ Hurdle with Open Eagle, who had finished second to his stable companion Thomas Hobson here in January.
Sent off the 4-7 favourite to go one better this time, Open Eagle took over from leader Kilcullen Flem approaching the second-last flight and proved too good for market rival Mystical Knight from there on, coasting to an easy success.
Just three lined up for the 7bets4free.com Novices’ Chase and there was another easy winner in outsider Vivaldi Collonges, who had disappointed in the Betfred Classic Chase here last month, but had no difficulty in seeing off Dawson City to score by 62 lengths.
Mullins had taken the 2015 running of the OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle (Listed Race) with the classy Glens Melody, who went on to success at the Festival. This year, he was represented by Petite Parisienne, who was sporting a hood for the first time, but she never looked like adding to his record, finishing only fourth.
Jessber’s Dream had been runner-up in a similar contest at Taunton and Noel Fehily took her straight into the lead. She was still in front going to the last flight, but made her only mistake, handing the advantage to Flute Bowl, who ran on strongly to make it another winner for the Moore father and son combination.
The longest race of the afternoon was the Guy Salmon Land Rover Handicap Hurdle over three-and-a-quarter miles and it produced the best finish as Extreme Impact, who had been up the front from the off, came to collar 3-1 favourite Saint John Henry, who had looked the likely winner when leading into the home straight.
Taquin Du Seuil had not been seen out since finishing unplaced in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 11 months ago, but he made light of his absence, putting up an impressive display under Leighton Aspell to defy top weight in the 7bets4free.com Warwick Castle Handicap Chase.
Aspell made it a double when landing the concluding Whitson Bloodstock Ltd Handicap Hurdle with Clyne, who proved too strong for 25-1 outsider Catchin Time.