It was all systems go at Warwick on Saturday as the frost covers did their job, allowing the course’s biggest meeting of the year to beat the weather, writes David Hucker.
Favourite Sego Success was trying to emulate the 2012 winner Hey Big Spender in carrying top weight of 11-12 to victory in the day’s feature race, the £60,000 Betfred Classic Chase, but he got no further than the second fence in what turned out to be a real endurance test in the heavy ground.
Just five finished and it was Russe Blanc, the only white horse in training, who triumphed for trainer Kerry Lee, running on strongly to beat Midnight Prayer, who looked to have his measure approaching the final fence.
It was the second big Saturday win in a row for Lee, who is in her first season as a trainer, having taken the Coral Welsh National with Mountainous the week before.
Born Survivor was sent off favourite to land the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, a race his trainer Dan Skelton had won last year with Three Musketeers.
But he faced stiff opposition in the shape of two runners from the powerful yard of Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins, with Thomas Hobson leading all the way, seeing off the challenge of stablemate Open Eagle from the last, with the favourite finishing a disappointing fourth.
Mullins chose Navan winner Black Hercules from his three entries in the Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices´ Chase (Listed Race) over three miles.
A strong 5-6 favourite, Black Hercules was taken to the front by Danny Mullins on the run to the second fence and he put in a faultless round of jumping, comfortably seeing off the challenge of Definitely Red from the last.
There was an exciting finish to the opening Betfred “Goals Galore” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, with Bold Duke, who had been brought with a well-timed run to lead at the last flight by Ben Poste, just holding on from 66-1 outsider Red Hott Robbie.
Big Jim, having just his fourth race over fences, led from the start to run out an appropriate winner of the Betfred “January Sale” Handicap Chase for trainer Alex Hales.
The race was run for the Edward Courage Cup, which commemorates one of the most successful owner/trainers of the last century, who sent out the high-class Spanish Steps and Royal Relief from the stables now occupied by Hales on the Edgcote estate in Northamptonshire.
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, for which all seven finishers qualified for the final at the Cheltenham Festival, saw Flintham and jockey Nico de Boinville put up a bold front-running performance to beat Pobbles Bay and in the concluding National Hunt Flat Race, Thisonetime made a winning debut for Yorkshire trainer John Quinn.
There is more action at the course on Thursday, with a six-race card starting at 1.50pm.