IT IS the McCoy Contractors Classic Chase Day at Warwick on Saturday and, following the bumper crowd of just under 7,000 on New Year’s Eve, there should be another good turnout as the course celebrates past winners of its most valuable race of the season, writes David Hucker.
Now named the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Chase, the race has attracted 25 entries, including the 2018 victor Milansbar, whose bold front-running display was just one of a number of high-profile winners that helped launch the career of Bryony Frost.
Milansbar then had two more races when ridden by different jockeys before being reunited with Frost in the Randox Health Grand National where he finished fifth to Tiger Roll.
He ran from a rating of 134 last year when disposing of another of Saturday’s entries Cogry, but is now on a mark of 140 and was well-beaten on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown Park in December.
Although trainer Lucinda Russell had earmarked the race for 2017 winner One For Arthur to make his comeback after missing last season through injury, he has not been entered and the key horse looks to be Rocky’s Treasure, who was priced up as favourite when the entries came out on Monday, but who also holds an engagement in the earlier Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race), the first of four races to be shown live on ITV4.
Trained by Kim Bailey, Rocky’s Treasure has already won four races this season, scoring by 17 lengths at Doncaster last time, with his only defeat coming when runner-up to the highly-rated Santini at Newbury at the beginning of December.
There is a total of £187,000 up for grabs across the seven-race card, with £75,000 on offer for the feature.
With the Cheltenham Festival now just over two months away, there will also be interest in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle to be run over a trip of two miles and five furlongs.
Point-to-Point winner Birchdale made a successful Rules debut in the familiar colours of leading owner JP McManus when beating stable companion Clarendon Street by four lengths over course and distance last month, earning a quote from Paddy Power of 20-1 for the Festival in March.
He heads the early market for Saturday, but dual hurdles winner Tidal Flow, trained by Philip Hobbs, may have a bit in hand.
The meeting opens with the Trial Racing TV For Free Now Novices’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles.
This is followed by the Class 3 racingtv.com Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase, run in memory of one of racing’s most successful owner/trainers who sent out a host of winners from his base at Edgcote near Banbury, notably dual Cheltenham Champion Chase victor Royal Relief and Spanish Steps.
New for 2019 is the Classic Luncheon, held in the trackside Paddock Pavilion, where racegoers can join previous winning riders and trainers of the race, including Ian Watkinson, who won on Jollys Clump, trained by Harry Thompson Jones, back in 1976 when the race was known as the Brooke Bond Oxo National.
The stars of yesteryear will be sharing their memories with racing historian Chris Pitt, who is currently writing a book on the history of Warwick. There will also be a display of racing artefacts on show.
“This season’s Classic Chase Day is our richest ever raceday,” said general manager Andre Klein.
“It is always the standout raceday in our calendar, in terms of racing pedigree and the standard of horses which compete on the day.
“We will be recognising the history of the Classic Chase this year too, as we welcome back jockeys from years past who have claimed victory in our flagship race.”
Gates open at 10.40am, two hours ahead of the first race and there is ample free parking in the centre of the course.
Tickets start from £12.50 per person, with restaurant and hospitality packages starting from £80.
For more ticket information visit www.warwickracecourse.co.uk.