WEATHER permitting, racing returns to Warwick on Thursday when the Larkshill Engineering Juvenile Hurdle kicks off a seven-race card for the course’s Eventmasters Christmas at the Races meeting, writes David Hucker.
With the weekend snow and rain causing cancellations up and down the country, trainers will have been anxiously looking at the weather forecasts for the end of the week and, following two inspections on Wednesday, officials have decided to look again at the track at 8am.
Assuming the meeting goes ahead, highlight of the afternoon is the £25,000 M-Tec Consulting Group Mares’ Novices’ Chase (Listed Race) over two and a half miles, in which the progressive Lady Buttons will have to give weight to her rivals following her win in a Class1 race at Bangor-on-Dee last time out.
Casablanca Mix finished nearly 15 lengths behind Rene’s Girl at Worcester in October, but followed up with a good second to Willoughby Court at Huntingdon and then posted a wide-margin win back at the course three weeks ago.
Trainer Nicky Henderson has decided to run her here rather than at Cheltenham over the weekend and she looks the one to be on.
One race almost certain to attract interest is the BHSF Maiden Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, in which Bourton-on-the-Water trainer Ben Pauling runs Coeur Pensif who fell on his last outing at Ascot.
Pauling won the race last year with Willoughby Court, who followed up at the course in January before landing the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
He is unbeaten in two chases this term and looks another to add to Warwick’s roll of honour which includes three-time course winner Sceau Royal, who stepped up in class to land the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park at the weekend
Longest race of the afternoon is the Balfour Beatty Handicap Chase and the three-mile trip will be ideal for course winner Paddy The Oscar, who showed his well-being when winning at Chepstow last month.
Although fast-approaching his 15th birthday, he retains his form well and races off a handicap mark of 109 compared to 112 when successful over the course at the end of 2015.
The concluding eventmasters.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race looks an open contest, but Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy has booked top Irish jockey Davy Russell for debutant General Custard and it will be interesting to see if there is any support for him in the betting market.
Racegoers are being encouraged to pull on their Christmas jumpers with prizes on offer for the most original and ‘cheesy’ jumpers, including an annual membership to the course and tickets to future race meetings, plus gifts from Warwick’s local community supporters.
“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone on the day in their favourite Christmas jumpers and embracing the festive spirit” said manager Andre Klein.
“It’s vital that all horses racing at Warwick are good jumpers, so we wanted to challenge racegoers to wear ones where all patterns go. We will try and get everyone together for a big group photo in the stands, which will be a bit of fun.”
“It’s a great chance to do something different for your Christmas party this year and make sure it’s one that everyone remembers for all the right reasons!” added Klein.
Gates open two hours before the first race which is due off at 12.20pm and there is ample free parking in the centre of the course.