BOXING Day saw the start of what is traditionally a busy period for sport and Warwick’s New Year’s Eve fixture is one of four race meetings taking place around the country on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
General manager Andre Klein is hoping that around 5,000 people will go through the turnstiles for the course’s most popular fixture of the season and the best-attended sporting event in the district.
“Last year, we attracted more than 4,000 racegoers and, with attendances on the rise throughout 2016, coupled with New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday, we are looking to another bumper crowd,” said Klein.
“Pre-sales have been fantastic and are well in front of last year. There’s nothing better than seeing the stands at a race track packed to the rafters with people enjoying the occasion. It makes for a wonderful atmosphere,” he added.
Gates open at 10am, two hours before the first race, the Local Parking Security Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, to be run over two miles and three furlongs, in which trainer Neil Mulholland has two entries in the shape of Kempton Park Flat winner Master Burbidge and Mrs Burbidge, who has been successful over hurdles three times already this season.
Warwickshire trainer Dan Skelton has an interesting entry in the following LPS British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle in Al Reesha, who broke her duck at Ayr when taking a National Hunt Flat Race by 23 lengths, following up with a clear-cut win over jumps at Fakenham, asserting between the last two flights and staying on to beat Captain Felix.
The runner-up has failed to build on that effort in two subsequent runs, putting a question mark over the value of the form, and a better bet may be Copper Kay, who has run in a couple of hot novice races since winning at Ffos Las.
Charbel, who beat Le Prezien and the useful Top Notch on his chasing debut, went down with all guns blazing when runner-up to hot favourite and Cheltenham Festival contender Altior at Sandown Park and sets the standard in the £8,000 Local Parking Security Novices’ Chase.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls could run Doncaster winner All Set To Go, but this is one of three entries he holds this week and the progressive Gala Ball and Haydock Park winner Buveur D’Air, who holds a Champion Hurdle entry, make more appeal.
There is also £8,000 in the prize pot for the Local Parking Security Handicap Chase run over three miles and course winner Cheat The Cheater showed he still had plenty to offer when staying on to be third under champion jockey Richard Johnson on his last run.
Vice Et Vertu has been raised a hefty 13lbs for his recent Ludlow win but, in a race where a number of the possible contenders have questions marks over their recent form or ability to stay the distance, he can’t be ruled out.
The concluding Local Parking Security Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race looks a real puzzle for racegoers to unravel with nearly two-thirds of the 29 entries having never run under Rules.
Of those with form, Uttoxeter winner Benechenko, who will have to carry a 7lb penalty, Skeleton Bob, runner up on his only start at Lingfield Park last month, and Little Chunk, who chased home Glen Forsa at Huntingdon, would all be in with chances.
But, with Dan Skelton boasting a 27 per cent strike rate in this type of contest at the course, his unraced pair of Global Ruler and Just For William catch the eye and are likely to attract support in the betting market.
There is plenty of entertainment scheduled in addition to the action on the track, including live music, stilt walkers and a rodeo reindeer.
Some of the raceday packages have already sold out, but there is still availability for a NYE Party Package in the Paddock Pavilion, which includes a three-course meal, exclusive table, seasoned mulled wine on arrival, corporate admission, racecard and help from a tipster for £90 per person.
Also on offer is The Punters’ Package offering entry, a locally sourced pie, drink, racecard and Tote bet for £27 per person.
For more ticket information or party packages call 01926 405 560 or go to www.warwickracecourse.co.uk