DRUMLEE Sunset and Jonathan Burke just held on in a thrilling finish to land Warwick’s feature Feldon Dunsmore Budbrooke Handicap Chase last Friday, writes David Hucker.
With top-weight Master Dee and Caltex both non-runners, eight set out on the two- and-a-half mile trip, with Alcester trainer Dan Skelton saddling three of the runners, including last year’s winner Cobra De Mai, who was 8lb higher in the weights this time.
None were to feature in the finish as Drumlee Sunset, backed in from 18-1 to 12-1 before the off, took what looked like a winning lead when going past pace-setting Foxtail Hill over the penultimate fence.
His supporters were made to sweat at the end, however, as Leighton Aspell brought Diable De Sivola with a storming run to close the gap and there was just a short head between them at the finish.
Drumlee Sunset was providing trainer Tom George with a fifth win in the last four days and the 40th of the season so far, although he still has some way to go to match his best tally of 71 two years ago.
Racegoers were still queuing to come in when the runners set off for the opening British Stallion Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (qualifier) over two miles and three furlongs, won by 7-4 favourite One For Rosie.
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies was content to sit in behind the leaders until the runners turned for home and, from then on, it was just a question of how far his mount would win by come the finish line.
Falco Blitz, the choice from three entries for champion trainer Nicky Henderson, stepped up on his hurdles debut at Bangor-on-Dee to give the favourite a race over the final two obstacles, but Twiston-Davies was always in control of the situation and had five lengths to spare at the line.
Next up was the racingtv.com Juvenile Hurdle over the minimum trip of two miles and there was another well-supported favourite in Dan Skelton’s Flegmatik, an easy winner at Wetherby on his British debut in December.
It was Song For Someone, the most experienced runner in the race, who took them along down the back straight, increasing his lead with a good jump at the fourth-last flight.
Another to cross the English Channel, Song For Someone won and was placed in all four of his races in France before scoring on his first run for trainer Tom Symonds at Newbury over Christmas and he made it a third win for the season, coming home clear from Idilico, with Flegmatik back in third after holding every chance over the last two jumps.
Three miles was the trip for the £16,400 UBS Wealth Management Mares’ Handicap Chase (qualifier for the Challenger Mares’ Chase Series final) and The Bay Birch, brought with a well-timed challenge by Stan Sheppard to go past long-time leader Song Saa at the penultimate fence, forged clear to beat favourite Sheneededtherun by four lengths.
The largest field of the afternoon lined up for the racingtv.com Hands And Heels Handicap Hurdle, a race restricted to conditional and amateur jockeys who, prior to 15th August last year, had not ridden more than ten winners.
Heading the betting was hat-trick seeking Uno Mas, who topped the weights with 12-5 and, with the stands rail to guide him, he overpowered Goodnight Charlie, a course winner over fences, on the run-in to win again for the Christian Williams Racing Club and provide amateur jockey Jack Tudor with a second career success.
The Bet Connect Festival Preview Here 7th March Handicap Chase had looked an open race on paper and it provided another close finish to get the crowd on their toes, with top-weight Quarenta just prevailing from Global Dream to give Twiston-Davies a double on the afternoon.
Harry Skelton had taken the race by the scruff of the neck down the back straight, sending Global Dream into a clear lead, but they couldn’t shake off Quarenta who, under a powerful Twiston-Davies ride, got up right on the post to land a third course win.
Newcomer Yeavering Belle took the concluding British Stallion Studs EBF Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race by a length from Whitehotchillifili, with the rest well strung-out behind.