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Shanty Town looks set to shine at Warwick

THE Cheltenham Festival is over for another year, but jump racing continues apace with next month’s Randox Health Grand National on the horizon and plenty of action still to come at Warwick before the season’s end in May, writes David Hucker.

Saint Calvados couldn’t add to Warwick’s record at the Festival, when the impressive winner of last month’s Kingmaker Chase finished only fourth to Footpad in a high-class field for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy on the opening day.

The Grand National remains the target for Milansbar, triumphant with Bryony Frost in January’s Betfred Classic Chase over three miles and five furlongs of the Warwick track, and she will again be in the saddle for her first ride in the race.

He did his chances no harm with a good performance behind the in-form Regal Flow in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last Saturday.

With stable stars Buveur D’Air, a Warwick chase winner in 2016, and Altior landing two of Cheltenham’s championship races, Nicky Henderson has opened up a good lead in the race for the trainers’ title, but ten-time holder Paul Nicholls will push him to the end of the season.

Richard Johnson looks to be on track for a third successive jockeys’ title, although his seven-day suspension after winning the Gold Cup will give Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton chance to close the gap.

Heavy ground has very much been the feature of the winter months but, with the weather looking likely to improve, racegoers can expect a turnaround in form with horses that have been crying out for better ground at last getting their favoured conditions.

Race times were on the slow side at the last meeting, with the feature race, won by Talk of TheSouth, being run nearly one and a half minutes above the standard for the course and distance.

It is still too early for new grass to grow, so clerk of the course Jane Hedley and her team will be trying to find the best racing line on ground that has been cut up.

With the hurdle races reverting to the outer track and the welcome drying winds, the ground should ride faster than at recent meetings and is currently forecast as good to soft, with some soft places.

Warwick shares Wednesday’s jumping action with sister Jockey Club racecourse Wincanton and top of the bill on Spring Race Day is the 188Bet Stephen Allday Perpetual Plate Chase for novices over three miles.

Just three contested last year’s race, with Johnson scoring on favourite Krackatoa King for his neighbour Kerry Lee.

With an uplift in prize money and 23 entries, there should be a larger turnout this time and one that looks well-weighted is Shanty Town, who won his comeback race after a break of 66 days at Market Rasen and has been raised just 3lb for that success.

The six-race card gets underway at 2.10pm with the Daily Racing Specials At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle for four year-olds and upwards over two miles and five furlongs.

The race has attracted 38 entries, including three from the Philip Hobbs stable, although Henderson’s Dickie Diver looks interesting, making his debut in the colours of JP McManus after winning his only point-to-point by 20 lengths.

It’s the same trip for the final race of the day, the Play Slots At 188Bet Casino Handicap Hurdle, which is due off at 4.55pm. Now McGinty got off the mark at the 13 attempt at the last meeting and would have to overcome a 10lb rise in the weights if trying to follow up.

There will be racing again in Easter week with the St Marys Lands Cup Day on Thursday 5 April, when the feature event on the seven-race card will carry a £30,000 prize fund.

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