WITH a big crowd, sunshine and a record £183,000 in prize money, the stage was set for Saturday’s Betfred Classic Chase Day, Warwick’s big meeting of the season, and it didn’t disappoint as Milansbar provided jockey Bryony Frost with another big-race winner in front of the television cameras, writes David Hucker.
Despite the ground drying out on the chase course, the trip of three miles and five furlongs of the Classic Chase still took a bit of getting.
With Milansbar and Missed Approach setting a strong gallop from the off, few really got into the race and, in the end, it proved a comfortable success for Frost, whose mount bounced back from a disappointing run in last week’s Welsh Grand National.
Only the second female jockey to win after amateur Rosemary Henderson in 1993 when the race was known as the Brooke Bond Oxo National, Frost enjoyed a trouble-free passage and Milansbar finished like a fresh horse to beat Cogry by eleven lengths, with Missed Approach back in third, receiving a quote of 50-1 for the Randox Health Grand National from Paddy Power.
As well as the big one, there was plenty of interest in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle, won last year by Willoughby Court, who went on to score at the Cheltenham Festival.
Whether this year’s victor Mr Whipped scales the same heights remains to be seen, but he was a convincing winner on the day, despite veering sharply to his right after hitting the front at the final flight.
Bought for £160,000 after winning an Irish point-to-point, Mr Whpped was recording his third win from as many races and completed a good afternoon for Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson who also had three winners at Kempton Park.
There was a competitive field of seventeen for the opening Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Novices’ Handicap Hurdle with Ardmayle and With Pleasure sharing favouritism at 6-1.
Neither looked like winning, however, as the Robin Dickin trained All Is Good made the running, but was being challenged on all sides entering the straight, with none going better than 14-1 shot Vado Forte.
Despite being less than fluent at the second-last flight, he always had too much in hand for his rivals, coming home by seven lengths to bring up Herefordshire trainer Tom Lacey’s 21st winner, equaling last season’s total.
The money came for Big Jim in the following Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase and punters were smiling as Harry Bannister took him straight into the lead, having their rivals in trouble some way out.
With the Dan Skelton representative Azzuri never a factor, it was left to Imjoeking to mount a challenge going to the last, but another good jump sealed it for Big Jim, who is trained by Alex Hales on the same Edgecote Estate from where Edward Courage sent out a string of high-class chasers in the second half of the last century.
Hales looked to have a good chance of doubling up with Duel At Dawn in the Betfred Home Of Goals Galore Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race), the first of four races televised on ITV4, and, having jumped to the front at the first fence down the back straight, he set sail for home.
Travelling well in behind was the only mare in the race, Ms Parfois, and she came to take over at the penultimate obstacle, showing a good turn of foot with Sean Bowen to score by five lengths and earn a quote of 25-1 from Unibet for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival.
There was another open-looking race for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier), with the first six home eligible to enter the Final in March.
It was the progressive Black Ivory who prevailed, reeling in Sykes from the last to give Yorkshire trainer Malcolm Jefferson a quick double after the success of Waiting Patiently in Kempton’s feature chase.
With no form to go on, the Betfred “Newcomers” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race was a bit of a guessing game, but it threw up a clear-cut result when 4-1 shot Thebannerkingrebel, made all the running to storm home from Brigadier Bob, with favourite Baby Ted staying on into third.