Iwilldoit denies late charge of Mr Incredible to land the £100,000 feature at Warwick's Classic Chase Day
Iwilldoit, off the course since winning the Coral Welsh National at the end of 2021, stayed on strongly to take the £100,000 Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap), feature of Warwick’s richest race meeting of the season on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
First run 50 years ago, the Classic Chase lived up to expectations with past course winner Volcano taking the runners along at a good pace in the testing conditions. The pack was breathing down his neck, however, by the middle of the back straight and it was Iwilldoit, having his first run for 383 days for trainer Sam Thomas, who jumped to the front at the last fence before turning for home.
That would normally have been the third-last but, with the final fence omitted in all chases, only one remained in the home straight to negotiate and, with Stan Sheppard setting sail for home, he saw out the marathon trip of three miles and five furlongs to deny the late charge of Mr Incredible by two-and-three-quarter lengths, with the 2021 winner Notachance in third and Guetapan Collonges fourth.
The sponsors are offering a bonus of £100,000 if the winner goes on to success in the Randox Grand National at Aintree, but Iwilldoit will have to compete in one more chase before 19th February to qualify for the showpiece.
Punters came unstuck in the opening Mark Jackson & Neil Keenan Memorial Novices’ Handicap Hurdle as Groom De Cotte, backed from 9-4 into 6-4 was well beaten by Non Stop.
Having disputed the lead with Angels Landing early on, Groom de Cotte was struggling from the third-last flight as Non Stop, a winner over the course in November, hit the front approaching the penultimate jump and ran right away in the hands of Tom Cannon for a nine-and-a-quarter-length success.
Haddex Des Obeaux, an impressive winner at Doncaster last time out, was another well-backed favourite in the following Class 2 Wigley Support Fund Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase but, this time, all went according to plan as he jumped well and made every yard of the running with Jamie Moore to beat Galop Ce Chasse, who was outpaced down the back straight, by a wide margin.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who passed the 100-winner mark for the season at Taunton the previous Monday, had taken the last two runnings of the Grade 2 eventmasters.co.uk Hampton Novices’ Chase and he saddled Complete Unknown this time, who headed the market at 5-4.
Second favourite was Galia Des Liteaux. who had been pulled up after making an early mistake at Kempton Park last time, but Dan Skelton’s mare was foot-perfect over the Warwick fences, making all the running and pulling away from Complete Unknown up the home straight, being cut from 33-1 to 16-1 for The Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival by the sponsors.
Also a Grade 2 contest was the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs in which Nicholls was represented by Knowsley Road and Skelton by Grey Dawning, both horses having scored twice over hurdles previously.
It was Givega who headed the market, but he never looked like winning, and after Snake Roll had set a good pace, three came to the penultimate flight together with the race between them. Past course winner Ginny’s Destiny made a mistake and it was Grey Dawning, a winner at Exeter and Kempton Park, who strode away for a five-length success to complete a double for Dan and Harry Skelton.
This season, only the first four home in qualifiers will be eligible for the Final at Cheltenham, so there looked to be plenty of competition in the Class 2 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Qualifier over three miles and a furlong.
But, with two absentees and On The Blind Side pulling up early on, that left just six in contention and it was 7-4 favourite Glimpse Of Gala, trained by Charlie Longsdon, who beat market rival Ashtown Lad.
On a good afternoon for Stan Sheppard, The Cox Express wore down long-time leader Yonconor to take the closing Wigley Community Fund “Newcomers” National Hunt Flat Race.