Annie Mc sets sights on Cheltenham Festival after feature race glory at latest Warwick Racecourse meeting
WITH the weather having wiped out jump racing in Britain since Doncaster’s meeting last Saturday, all eyes were on Warwick’s eight-race card on Wednesday, featuring the £30,000 Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase, writes David Hucker.
Transferred when Huntingdon’s meeting was lost to flooding on Friday, this Listed contest over two-and-a-half miles attracted just five runners, but they included Doncaster winner Annie Mc, the progressive novice Zambella, who had put up an eye-catching performance when winning over the course in December, and the vastly more experienced Happy Diva, winner of the race two years ago and running in her 23rd steeplechase.
Zambella set out to make all the running again, but she was joined at the final fence by Annie Mc, who went clear on the run-in in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill Jr, riding for his father, and now goes for the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, for which she is on offer at 8-1 with the sponsors.
All the jockeys had requested permission to wear black armbands in honour of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who had passed away from Covid-19 the day before, and nine weighed out to ride in the opening race, the Join Racing TV Now Juvenile Hurdle.
Three of the runners were previous winners and they dominated the betting with Sage Advice, successful on his hurdles debut at Kempton Park in January, the market leader ahead of Goodbye Stranger.
But, it was the third of the winners, the hooded Cabot Cliffs who, having pulled himself to the front after the second flight, made the rest of the running with Harry Skelton to score for the second time in four outings and earn a quote of 16-1 from Paddy Power for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Festival.
There was no hanging around as 15 set off in the following South West Syndicate Novices’ Handicap Chase over two-and-a-half miles and the race produced a thrilling finish with 7-2 favourite Overworkedunderpaid, only fourth jumping the last fence, getting up close home to deny Definite Dilemma, who had run a stormer after a 580-day absence.
There was another big field for the Racing TV Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle and it went to 40-1 shot Uptown Lady, who took advantage of the final flight fall of leader Fantastic Lady, before the grey Volcano and Ben Jones overcame a mistake five fences from home to follow up their course win in December with success in the Watch On Racing TV Handicap Chase.
The trip was three miles and two furlongs for the longest race of the afternoon, the Visit racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle, and it produced another close finish with Supremely Lucky collaring Undersupervision on the run-in to bring up a double for Dan and Harry Skelton.
There was a different look to the Willoughby de Broke Open Hunters’ Chase this year, with amateur riders replaced by professionals, and the race went to Latenightpass, the second 40-1 winner of the afternoon, ridden by Bridget Andrews for her brother-in-law Tom Ellis, the pair defying the late challenge of Highway Jewel by three-quarters of a length.
Bryony Frost made what proved to be a winning move when taking Miss Heritage to the front on the home turn to land the concluding handicap hurdle for Newmarket trainer Lucy Wadham.