WITH the Cheltenham Festival just four weeks away, racegoers will be hoping for more clues to the upcoming big races at Warwick’s Agetur Kingmaker Chase Day on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
The Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, run over two miles, has proved a stepping stone to glory in Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, although the last to do so was 2011 winner Finian’s Rainbow, who triumphed at the Festival a year later.
The last winner of the race at Warwick was Saint Calvados two years ago, as the 2019 fixture fell victim to an outbreak of equine flu which caused the meeting to be abandoned. It was run a week later at Sandown Park but, hopefully, it will be full steam ahead this year.
Brewin’upastorm, who returned to action after a wind operation at Carlisle in October and followed up with another win at Taunton three weeks later, was expected to line up on Saturday but, after a minor set-back, trainer Olly Murphy has run out of time to get him ready for the race and will send his horse straight to Cheltenham.
In his absence, Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra looks the one to be on. He ran a blinder in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park and, at Monday’s entry stage, was made the 5-2 market leader to step up here and add to his trainer’s excellent record at the course.
Fanion D’Estruval could be the biggest danger, although he ran disappointingly at Kempton Park last time on his second outing in this country. He is currently on offer at 33-1 for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Festival.
Rouge Vif, owned like Saint Calvados by Kate and Andrew Brooks, returned after wind surgery to run well behind the 156-rated Global Citizen at Kempton Park’s Christmas meeting and should be in the shake-up.
Although without an entry in the Kingmaker, Murphy has Knockgraffon, owned like Brewin’upastorm by Barbara Hester, in the richest race of the afternoon, the £50,000 Warwick Castle Handicap Chase over two and a half miles. Not seen out since last May, he may find one or two a bit hot to handle, with the lightly-raced Gala Ball looking worth an each-way punt at the 7-1 opening show.
Leading trainer Nicky Henderson has three entries in the opening Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle, which gets the meeting under way at 12.55pm, the best of which looks to be Welsh Saint, third behind Protektorat in a decent race at Cheltenham last time out, although he is also entered at Newbury and Exeter over the weekend.
“The Agetur Kingmaker Novices’ Chase is always one of the racing highlights of the season at Warwick and it’s a great day for fans of the sport,” said general manager Andre Klein.
“We are committed to helping more people fall in love with horse racing and visitors to the track on the day will get an insight into all the work that goes on behind the scenes and will also be able to find out more about what happens to race horses when their racing days are behind them.”
Gates open at 10.55am and advanced tickets for the main enclosure are priced at £17.50. For more ticket information visit www.warwickracecourse.co.u
Wilmcote-based Murphy, who recently notched his 200th career win, having only started out training in 2017, will again be joining the panel for the course’s Festival Preview on Thursday March 5th, for which tickets are on sale priced £15 which includes a curry.