Warwick’s Air Ambulance Countryside Day on Sunday kicks off the most important week in the jump season calendar, as all eyes turn to the start of the Cheltenham Festival just 48 hours later, writes David Hucker.
Warwick has helped to raise £50,000 for the charity over the last two years and, with the Air Ambulance Service recently celebrating completion of 30,000 missions, it is a cause the course continues to support. Racegoers can buy a special package for the meeting to include a drinks reception, Cheltenham preview with an expert panel, which includes local trainers Olly Murphy and Dan Skelton, and lunch for £80.
Also on the panel will be Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire, who pledged his support for the Air Ambulance Service five months after the charity helped save his life after a fall at Stratford.
Maguire, who rode Ballabriggs to victory in 2011, became one of the charity’s patrons and, having retired from riding, now acts as racing manager to major owners Paul and Clare Rooney.
Wilmcote-based Murphy had his string in good form when the snow came last week, sending out his 50th winner since taking out a licence last year when Compatriot and Jamie Spencer triumphed at Wolverhampton on the last day of February. It was Murphy’s eighth winner on the Flat from just 34 runners, adding to his 42 successes over jumps.
Since Dove Mountain, a winner of a Warwick charity race in aid of Air Ambulance when trained by Murphy’s mentor Gordon Elliott, set the ball rolling at Brighton on July 4, it has been onwards and upwards for the young handler, who has twice sent out four winners in a day to showcase his skills.
The loss of meetings to the recent bad weather is reflected in the huge entry for Sunday’s seven-race card, with 28 in the feature Class3 Get Daily Tips At racinguk.com Handicap Chase over the marathon trip of three miles and five furlongs. Among them are former Classic Chase winners Russe Blanc and Rigadin De Beauchene, as well as other course winners in Leo Luna and Muckle Roe.
Arguably, the form horses of the race are Talk Of The South, who put his best foot forward with Paddy Brennan to score at the last meeting, and The Artful Cobbler, who won over the course in January and followed up at Lingfield Park last month.
There will be a family theme to the day’s events which, in addition to the racing, will feature falcons and ferrets, pony rides, magician Jester Styles, face painters, stilt walkers and Mr Twister the balloon artist.
“It is fantastic to be supporting the Air Ambulance Service for a third successive year and to have so far raised around £50,000,” said general manager Andre Klein.
“The raceday continues to be a great opportunity to raise awareness of the work carried out by the Air Ambulance Service and enjoy a great afternoon of family fun and racing too.”
For more information, go to www.warwick.thejockeyclub.co.uk