Opening Batsman has ability to score well at Warwick

Opening Batsman, left, ridden by Noel Fehily wins in the Racing Plus Steeple Chase during the Racing Plus Chase Day at Kempton Park.
Opening Batsman, left, ridden by Noel Fehily wins in the Racing Plus Steeple Chase during the Racing Plus Chase Day at Kempton Park.

The Executive Hire Show Budbrooke Chase tops the bill at Warwick on Friday afternoon and, with £30,000 in the prize fund, it looks like being a pretty hot contest, writes David Hucker.

Run for the first time last year, the Budbrooke went to the Philip Hobbs-trained Persian Snow and the stable has two entries in the shape of Al Alfa and Toowoomba.

Opening Batsman made all the running to win well at Wincanton last Saturday and would have a good chance if turning out again. He had nine lengths to spare over Harry’s Farewell, with Toowoomba even further back in fourth place, and may not be stopped by a 7lb penalty.

Venetia Williams has three to choose from with Niceonefrankie, who heads the weights, as well as Bennys Mist and Tango De Juilley.

Third in this race last year, Bennys Mist is now on a losing run of seven since scoring twice at Wincanton in January 2014, but he is slowly coming down the handicap and should go close.

Alan King’s Hollow Penny, who holds a Cheltenham Festival entry, is another to note, but Mister Grez from the Dan Skelton yard would need to post a career-best performance and is hard to fancy.

The seven-race card, which has attracted 165 entries, kicks off at 2.10pm with the EBF Stallions “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Qualifier over two miles and three furlongs.

Longest race of the afternoon is the fifth, the £10,000 Warwick Racecourse Handicap Chase over three miles and five furlongs and, with many of the 14 entries closely matched in the ratings, it looks like being a tight affair.

Top-rated Global Power was a beaten favourite last time out when pulling up in the West Wales National, but the race was run in testing conditions with only two finishers and the form is best ignored.

Master Rajeem and Safran De Cotte also failed to score when well backed on their previous runs and the progressive Merlin’s Wish may be a better bet if not too ring-rusty after a long absence.

There was plenty of equine talent on display at the last meeting with the classy Vibrato Valtat taking the day’s big race, the £40,000 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, and Glens Melody posting back-to-back wins in the Mares´ Hurdle (Listed Race).

Both horses now head to the Cheltenham Festival, with Vibrato Valtat taking on Irish hotpot Un De Sceaux in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy and Glens Melody looking to go one better in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, where she will find stable companion Annie Power a tough nut to crack.

Local racegoers can get the inside track on the Festival at the annual preview evening on Thursday week, when a panel comprising jockey Jamie Moore, trainer Oliver Sherwood, Paul Jones, Will Smith and Trevor Harris from Star Sports will be at Warwick to give their views.

Gates open at 6.30pm for a 7.30pm start and tickets, which must be bought in advance, are priced at £10.