Allmankind targets Cheltenham Festival's Arkle Challenge Trophy after emphatic victory at Warwick Racecourse
ALLMANKIND headlined an afternoon to remember for Alcester trainer Dan Skelton when landing Warwick's Grade 2 Agetur Kingmaker Novices' Chase on Monday and now heads for the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy at next month's Cheltenham Festival, writes David Hucker.
A winner of five of his seven races over jumps, including the Grade 1 Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown Park, Allmankind faced just three opponents, but course winner Sky Pirate and the progressive Cheddleton both had form to suggest that they would be worthy challengers.
In the end, it was pretty straightforward for Allmankind who made every yard of the running and, although not foot-perfect at the penultimate fence, went clear after the last to put 17 lengths between himself and Sky Pirate, a result that saw him shorten a point in the Paddy Power Festival betting to 7-1.
There was an upset in the opening Paddy Power Novices' Hurdle when odds-on favourite Lecale's Article, a seven-length winner at Newbury last time, couldn't peg back 9-1 shot Benny's Oscar on the run-in.
Taken to the front on the home turn by Harry Skelton, Benny's Oscar followed up his Irish point-to-point win in December to make a winning hurdling debut and get the afternoon off to a perfect start for the Skelton stable.
A competitive field of eighteen lined up for the Paddys Rewards Club Handicap Hurdle over two miles with Song Of The Hunter, the mount of champion jockey Brian Hughes, a well-supported market leader to score on his first run for trainer Johnny Farrelly.
Kuraka was another to attract the money, halving from a morning price of 10-1 to 5-1 at the off, but it was Orkan and Jamie Hamilton who made all the running to readily see off the challenge of the favourite, whose cause wasn't help by a blunder at the penultimate flight.
The St Marys Land Warwick Mares' Hurdle (Listed) worth £16,500 saw the first appearance in this country of leading French hurdler Paul's Saga, whose trainer David Cottin had targeted this race as a stepping stone to the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
But, it was another Harry Skelton masterclass in making the running around Warwick as the improving Molly Ollys Wishes, winner of her previous two races, proved too good for Paul's Saga, powering away over the final two flights to record a 19-length success, making it four winners in all on the afternoon for the stable with Whispering Gypsy and Bridget Andrews also scoring at Lingfield Park.
The most valuable race on the card was the £35,000 Paddy Power Warwick Castle Handicap Chase over two-and-a-half miles.
The weights were headed by the classy Aso, who had run his best race when runner-up to Frodon in the 2019 Ryanair Chase, but set to give 6lbs to Two For Gold, successful in last year's Hampton Novices' Chase over the course.
The two dominated the race and, at the end, there was just a neck between them, as Two For Gold, wearing cheek-pieces for the first time, prevailed under David Bass, with trainer Kim Bailey saying he would be aimed at this year's Topham Trophy at Aintree and the Grand National in 2022.
Longest race on the card was the From The Horses Mouth Podcast Handicap Hurdle over three miles and two furlongs, in which Mr Washington was seeking to follow up his course win last month and complete a five-timer.
He never got into contention, staying on late to snatch fourth place, with the race going to top-weight Ballymillsy, who collared Ballymagroarty Boy halfway up the run-in.