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Saint Calvados cruises to victory in Kingmaker at Warwick

Saint Calvados jumps the last to win the Kingmaker Novices' Chase. Photo: David Pratt (dwprattracingphotography.co.uk)
Saint Calvados jumps the last to win the Kingmaker Novices' Chase. Photo: David Pratt (dwprattracingphotography.co.uk)

WARWICK'S Kingmaker Chase has been a stepping stone for some high-class chasers over the years and Saturday’s crowd might just have seen another star in the making as Saint Calvados put in a superb round of jumping to set up a Cheltenham Festival challenge, writes David Hucker.

Named after Richard Neville, the 16 Earl of Warwick, the Grade 2 Betway Kingmaker Novices’ Chase has been won in the past by some top-class horses, including two mile champions Finian’s Rainbow and Flagship Uberalles and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run.

One of three races broadcast on ITV4, this year’s contest had been the target for Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados since chalking up his second Newbury success last month and he didn’t disappoint his fans, taking fence after fence in his stride to see off the challenge of Diego Du Charmil to win by 22 lengths.

Saint Calvados was well-backed in the market, being sent off the 4-9 favourite to land the £40,000 contest, and he did the job in style to send out a warning to supporters of Irish banker Footpad that next month’s Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy is far from a foregone conclusion.

Seven set out in the opening Visit The All New racinguk.com Novices' Hurdle with Olly Murphy’s RioQuinto fancied to get back on the winning trail.

Settled in midfield by Fergus Gregory, he had every chance turning for home, but Paul O’Brien had stolen a few lengths on the leader Louse Talk and, hard as he tried, RioQuinto just couldn’t close the gap, as Louse Talk crossed the line three lengths to the good to provide Over Norton trainer Charlie Longsdon with his 33 winner of the season.

Midnight Tour topped the ratings in the second, the olbg.com Mares' Hurdle (Listed Race) (Registered As The Warwick Mares' Hurdle), but it was Midnight Jazz, who had run the useful Poppy Kay to half a length on her previous outing, who headed the market.

Neither was to feature in the finish, although Midnight Tour overcame traffic problems to grab third place, as Woolstone One, who had been last going down the back straight, was brought with a well-timed run by Gavin Sheehan to lead at the final jump and run on strongly to beat Jester Jet.

There was late market support for Dan Skelton’s Value At Risk in the All Cheltenham Live On Racing UK Warwick Castle Handicap Chase, but he never looked like landing a blow as the classy Kylemore Lough, carrying top weight of 11-12, led approaching the penultimate fence.

He was still in front jumping the last, but the weight began to tell and he was passed halfway up the run-in by Casse Tete who went on to score by five lengths.

The trip was three and a quarter miles for the John Lockley 60 Birthday Celebration Handicap Hurdle and, at the finish, there was less than a length between the first three home as Flashjack, who had taken a clear lead after jumping the final flight, had to dig deep to repel the challenge of favourite JustA Thought and Sir Will close home.

This was Henry Daly’s 25 win of the season and took him to the top of the Warwick trainers’ leader board ahead of Alan King and Dan Skelton.

The training accident suffered by Fountains Windfall the day before meant that just two lined up for the Wise Betting At racinguk.com Novices' Chase, with Ffos Las winner Solighoster the long odds-on favourite.

The race was run at a steady pace, with Solighoster out in front and former point-to-pointer Minmore Present taking a keen hold behind the leader.

That’s the way it stayed, with Solighoster proving just too good for his sole rival, landing the odds of 1-5 with ease.

The afternoon got even better for Harry Whittington when TheDubai Way landed a four-timer under top weight of 12-7 in the concluding Doom Bar Handicap Hurdle to deny market leader Vado Forte and bring up his 25 success of the campaign.

Winning jockey Harry Bannister was also completing a double on the afternoon, having landed the 2.30pm race at Uttoxeter on Ceann Sibheal for trainer Warren Greatrex.

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