One of the oldest racecourses in England, Warwick, hosts its feature race day on Saturday with two Gr2 jumps events.
The Gr2 Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase starts at 15h50 over 3 miles with ground conditions currently Soft and the forecast is dry.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls fields the lightly-raced Threeunderthrufive, who has an outstanding chance. The seven-year-old is 9lbs clear of his nearest rival on official ratings, and even with a 5lb penalty for winning the Gr2 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster last time out, he should be hard to beat.
In a five-horse field, the Jennie Candlish’s trained Mint Condition, who won well on heavy ground at Haydock when last seen, should follow the jolly home.
He stayed on nicely that day and on this Warwick card last year he was beaten a neck in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle when only just failing to reel in Adrimel.
Earlier on the card (15h18), the in-form stable of Venetia Williams saddle the course and distance winner Brave Seasca in a two-mile handicap chase. The seven-year-old bolted up by 10 lengths on similar ground conditions in early December. He followed up a week later at Ascot, winning easily. With a light weight of only 10 stone and 6lbs in the saddle, he looks a bet.
Over at Kempton, the Listed Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (16h40), with prize money boosted to £100,000, has attracted a maximum field of twenty for this two-mile five-furlong contest. Ground conditions are forecast as Soft.
Marie’s Rock from the Nicky Henderson yard has been very well supported in the ante-post market. She put in a career-best performance to win over the course and distance on Boxing Day by an impressive seven lengths. Always highly-regarded by connections she must be a big runner, but the 9lb penalty she incurred on her last start is a negative.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has won this event on two previous occasions and will be hoping to see his runner Gelino Bello go one better on his handicap debut.
The six-year-old has a workable rating of 138 and track conditions will suit. He’s been beaten by the Albert Bartlett favourite (Cheltenham Festival) Blazing Khal on his last two starts. If he brings the same level of form to the races on Saturday, he should be in with a great winning chance.
The Gr2 Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase (16h05) raced over two and a half miles is the only graded race on the card.
With only four competitors, a tactical and trappy affair is forecast. None of the quartet – Eldorado Allen, Mister Fisher, Defi Du Seuil and Rouge Vif are natural frontrunners and their ratings are all pretty close.
Eldorado Allen is a tentative selection; his seasonal debut win was in good company and last time out he stayed on well in third.