Warwick’s charity race day to whet appetite ahead of Cheltenham Festival

Grandturgeon is amongst the 24 entries in the Air Wedding Open Hunters’ Chase.

WITH the weather wreaking havoc with the jumps programme over the last ten days and the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, a full resumption of racing couldn’t come quickly enough for professionals and racegoers alike, writes David Hucker.

Warwick’s Air Ambulance Countryside Day on Sunday sees the start of the Cheltenham build-up in earnest, with just 48 hours to go until the opening race of the Festival on Tuesday, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Warwick has helped to raise some £50,000 for the charity over the last two years and, with the Air Ambulance Service recently celebrating completion of 30,000 missions, it’s a cause that the course continues to support.

The service flies two regional air ambulances across five counties, including Warwickshire, providing a rapid response to trauma and medical emergencies over an area of 3,850 square miles, averaging five missions a day with an average response time of just 13 minutes.

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 an all-in cost of £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, 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. This 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 4th July, 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 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. Amongst 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.

The action gets underway at 2.20pm with the racinguk.com Novices Hurdles (Novices’ Championship Hurdle Series Qualifier) over two miles, for which there are 43 entries, including Skelton’s Antunes, who showed promise on his debut run at Market Rasen.

One of the many good hunter chasers trained at Chesterton by the late John Thorne is remembered in the Air Wedding Open Hunters’ Chase over two-and-a-half miles. A good field looks in prospect with Grandturgeon, who created such a good impression when winning on his Rules debut at the course in January, amongst the 24 entries.

Amongst the possible opposition are Barrakilla, who overcame a 746-day absence to score on his debut in a hunter chase for Fergal O’Brien, and Jimmy The Jet Plane, a five-time winner when trained by Kim Bailey and now at the Daventry stable of Francesca Nimmo.

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