IT’S Executive Hire Raceday at Warwick on Wednesday afternoon and there are plenty of runners across the seven-race card that gets underway at 2.10pm, writes David Hucker.
Seventeen face the starter in the opener, the MHM Maiden Hurdle, with Walking In The Air looking to have a good chance to open his account over jumps for Alcester trainer Dan Skelton.
A course winner in a National Hunt Flat Race a year ago, Walking In The Air has been runner-up in his last two starts over hurdles and, whilst a little flattered by the margin of defeat behind Hell’s Kitchen at Newbury last time out, should still prove too good for his rivals today.
The main dangers look to be point-to-point winner Clondaw Fonz, who shaped with promise on his hurdles debut for Alan King at Huntingdon, and Neumond from the Nicky Henderson stable.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls had two winners at Taunton on Monday and he saddles Bol D’Air in the following JCB Novices´ Hurdle. He should make a bold show, but will face tough opposition from Breath Of Blighty, who belied his 33-1 starting price to finish second to long odds-on Buveur D’Air at Huntingdon, and Drumlee Sunset on whom Richard Johnson will be looking for his 215th winner of the season.
Ready Token, trained at Over Norton by Charlie Longsdon, last won in October, but he should appreciate the better ground here and, although racing off a 3lb higher mark, can go close in the Brandon Hire Group Novices´ Handicap Chase (for the Stephen Allday Perpetual Plate).
Kineton trainer Laura Hurley runs Barra Rotha in the Ricoh Arena Handicap Hurdle, but he will need to step up on recent performances to feature in the finish. Dan Skelton’s Air Glider was tailed off when falling at the final flight at Catterick on his last start, but there are no doubts about the form of Plumpton winner Talk Of The South, who can defy a 7lb penalty and score for Hampshire trainer Paul Henderson.
There is a competitive looking field in the Executive Hire Show Thanks For Attending Mares´ Handicap Hurdle, headed by Bonnet’s Vino, but the vote goes to Johnson’s mount Dubh Eile, who is slipping down the handicap and may come out on top if recapturing her form of last year.
Experienced amateur rider Claire Hart rides Leith Hill Legasi in the Executive Hire News Passionate Industry Voice Handicap Chase and the pair finished second to Emma Soda at Towcester with another of today’s runners Bebinn back in fourth.
Although the winner hardly franked the form when beaten 57 lengths on her subsequent run at the last Warwick meeting, Leith Hill Legasi is taken to get back on the winning trail.
The largest field of the afternoon line up in the concluding National Hunt Flat Race and, with most of the runners making their first racecourse appearance, it is very much a guessing game as to which will win.
Man From Mars was second to Westend Story in very heavy ground at Exeter on his debut and the winner went on to run well at the Cheltenham Festival last week. Irish point-to-point winner Robin Roe is likely to be well backed to round off the afternoon for Dan Skelton and another to note is Bastien, whose trainer Alan King boasts a 21% strike race at the course over the last five years.
Philip Hobbs does well with his runners in this type of event and Beau Du Brizais, who runs here in preference to Ludlow tomorrow, can score and give Johnson another winner on the way to his first championship.