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Skelton takes showpiece race with Cobra De Mai in Warwick


COURSE ambassador Dan Skelton landed the day’s big prize as a big family crowd enjoyed the sunshine at Warwick’s Budbroke Chase Family Fun Day on Friday, writes David Hucker.

Highlight of the seven-race card was the Class 2 Entire Cheltenham Festival On Racing UK Budbrooke Handicap Chase over two and a half miles for which the weights were headed by Olly Murphy’s Mussleburgh winner Knockgraffon.

But, it was another Warwickshire trainer who landed the spoils as Cobra De Mai, who hadn’t run since November and was returning after a wind operation, out-battled Drumlee Sunset from the penultimate fence to bring up Skelton’s 141 winner of what is turning into a career-defining season.

Leading trainer Nicky Henderson relied on Ludlow winner IndianHawk from his four entries in the opening British Stallion Studs EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle (Qualifier). Despite disappointing when trailing in last on his recent run at Doncaster, IndianHawk was well-supported to bounce back to form over a shorter trip and add to the successes enjoyed at Warwick this season by owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

IndianHawk was always travelling well behind the pacesetting Lygon Rock and, having jumped to the front at the second-last flight, was too strong for Olly Murphy’s Weebill, whose turn will surely come in the not-too-distant future.

Murphy saddled three in the following Whitson Bloodstock and Olly Murphy Juvenile Hurdle, two of whom, Eolian and Zamalight, were making their stable debuts. They were up against a formidable-looking duo from the Alan King yard in the shape of Jaboticaba, who had won his only hurdle start at Cagnes-sur-Mer, and Doctor Bartolo, who had been knocking on the door, finishing runner-up in both his races to date.

Thistimenextyear took the field along to the third-last flight where he fell, bringing down Working Class, and this left the King pair in command with 11-10 favourite Doctor Bartolo proving too strong for his stable companion, strolling home for a 16 length success.

The consistent Socksy headed the market in the Faller Refunds At 188Bet Mares' Handicap Chase (Qualifier For The Challenger Mares' Staying Chase Series Final), but couldn’t find an extra gear when needed, finishing only fourth.

Three had jumped the final fence in a line, but it was 14-1 shot Sheneededtherun who proved the stronger to give jockey John Kington his second winner of the season.

Sahara Haze had failed to win in 22 races in point-to-points and under Rules, but it was to be her day in the sunshine when, after leading at the fourth-last jump, she ran right away from her rivals to land the afternoon’s longest race, the 188Bet Download The App Hands And Heels Handicap Hurdle.

It also proved a red-letter day for her jockey Ben Jones with his first riding success, as the pair finished clear of Phangio and Max Dynamo, who might have found the three-and-a-quarter mile trip a step too far.

Paddy Brennan, who had been reunited with top-class chaser Cue Card at Ascot the previous weekend, was on board TalkOf The South in the Six Nations Rugby At 188Bet Handicap Chase. The combination had finished runner up to The Artful Cobbler over the course last month and, with the winner scoring again at Lingfield Park the previous Monday from a 5lb higher mark, the form had a solid look about it.

Brennan always had the 2-1 favourite in the perfect position, turning into the straight ahead of Capard King and TalkOf The South skipped clear over the final two obstacles for a comfortable success.

There was plenty of money for well-bred debutant Be That As It May in the concluding British Stallion Studs EBF Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, but her backers knew their fate some way out as Midnightreferendum, who had run with promise on her debut at Towcester, stepped up to give trainer Alan King a second winner of the afternoon.

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