Notachance lands feature race at Warwick Racecourse's prestigious Classic Chase Day
NOTACHANCE, ridden by Tom Cannon, stayed on stoutly to deny the grey Achille in a thrilling finish to the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Chase, the feature race of Warwick Racecourse’s most valuable meeting of the season on Saturday, writes David Hucker.
As they did last year, Captain Chaos and Harry Skelton set out to make all the running over the three miles and five furlong trip, but they were collared approaching the penultimate fence by Achille, having his first run for over a year, and the progressive Notachance, who had scored at Bangor-on-Dee in November and stepped up to give trainer Alan King a third victory in the race.
Favourite backers had plenty to cheer about when top-weight Will Sting, taken to the start early by Aidan Coleman, ran away with the opening Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
A mistake at the second flight set Will Sting back but, having made steady progress on the inside, he led turning for home and, from then on, the gap over the rest got wider and wider, with Frankincense snatching the runner-up spot from the one-paced Pasley.
The Class 2 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, went to another favourite in the shape of Sky Pirate, who comfortably held the challenge of Amoola Gold from the last fence and could complete a hat-trick next time.
Owner Malcolm Denmark didn’t have a runner in the feature race, but still had a good afternoon, winning the Grade 2 McCoy Contractors Civils and Infrastructure Hampton Novices’ Chase with Next Destination and the closing Here Comes McCoy “Newcomers” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race with 90,000 euros purchase Gold Bullion.
Both were ridden by Harry Cobden and, with reigning champion Brian Hughes drawing a blank at Market Rasen, he closed the gap in this year’s title race to 12.
With the Cheltenham Festival now only two months away, there was plenty of interest in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle run over two miles and five furlongs and, with eight of the runners having won their last race, it looked a contest full of quality.
Make Me A Believer and Oscar Elite headed the opening betting, but the money came for Adrimel, who was backed from 6-1 into 7-2 to go off clear favourite.
Adrimel had tasted defeat just once in five outings under Rules and was stepping up in trip after winning over the minimum distance at Haydock Park last time. He had scored over three miles on his only point-to-point outing in Ireland, however, and, after cutting out the running with Make Me A Believer, his stamina saw him home as he held the fast-finishing Mint Condition by a neck.
“He’s a horse that is hard to gauge at home, but is straightforward and saves it all for the racecourse,” said winning trainer Tom Lacey. “His future lies over fences.”
One of the most competitive races at the festival is the final of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle and, to be eligible to run, horses must have finished in the first six in one of the qualifiers. Last year, the 2019 winner Sire Du Berlais came to the meeting still seeking qualification and, having run on to finish fourth, took his place under top-weight in the final and made it back-to-back wins.
In what had looked a tight handicap beforehand for this year’s qualifier, by the finishing line, it was Imperial Alcazar who was out on his own to book his ticket for Cheltenham, for which Paddy Power quoted him at 12-1, and give trainer Fergal O’Brien his 73rd winner of the season.