Stylish Stage Star records impressive win in feature of Warwick's seven-race card
FAVOURITE Stage Star, ridden by Harry Cobden, ran out an impressive winner of the Class 3 Jewson Stratford-Upon-Avon Stan Mellor Memorial Novices' Chase, highlight of Warwick's seven-race card on Tuesday, writes David Hucker.
In a race run to commemorate the first jumps jockey to ride 1,000 winners, Stage Star, who was returning after wind surgery, was always at the head of affairs and, having seen off the challenge of Skytastic, had just second-favourite West Cork to beat coming to the final fence.
His jumping had been immaculate throughout and, whereas West Cork went out to his right, Stage Star was straight as an arrow and he had by the far the greater speed up the run-in to score in some style, being cut from 25-1 to 20-1 by Paddy Power for the Turners Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
The mid-morning downpour that had eased the ground to good to soft had cleared by the start of the meeting and there was close betting at the head of the market in the opening Jewson Click And Collect Juvenile Hurdle with Charles St, owned by The Cheltenham and South West Racing Club, just shading favouritism from Victory.
When the tape went up, nobody wanted to take the lead and the runners approached the first flight at a crawl where Romancero Le Dun unseated David Noonan.
It was Forward Flight who injected some pace into the race, tracked by Charles St but, by the home turn, Forward Flight had back-peddled and it was 18-1 shot Non Stop who had come to lay down a challenge.
They raced wide apart from the last flight with Non Stop getting the verdict by a head from Charles St, with Victory back in third.
In the absence of Crebilly, 12 set out for the Jewson Leamington Novices' Hurdle and it was dual point-to-point winner Gunnery Officer, who was always up with the leading group, who came out on top, holding the challenge of Etalon and Egbert from the last.
Favourite Everyonesgame, who was wearing a tongue-tie for the first time, led for much of the race only to fade into fifth.
There was a competitive field in the Jewson Coventry Handicap Hurdle in which Opening Bid, winner of the race last year and runner-up to Gerard Mentor here at the beginning of October, was looking to score again.
He had to settle for second place this time as Iontach Cheval, brought with a well-timed run by Jonathan Burke, led at the final flight to score by one-and-a-half lengths, with the well-backed Groom De Cotte, who shortened from 13-2 to 4-1, in third.
After two second places on the afternoon, Alcester trainer Dan Skelton was looking to go one better with 5-2 favourite Reilly in the Happy Birthday Julian Watson Handicap Chase.
He had every chance coming into the straight but was out-run by top-weight Guetapan Collonges, ridden by Jonjo O'Neill Jr.
Past course winner Hawthorn Cottage had been given a chance by the handicapper off a mark of 112 in the British Gypsum's Fastest Finish Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Chase and she duly obliged, making all the running under Luca Morgan to score by 30 lengths from South Terrace.
The biggest field of the afternoon lined up for the Start Your Racing TV Free Trail Now EBF Mares' Open National Hunt Flat Race and it was Spring Note who came out of the gathering gloom to post a comfortable success.