First run as the Classic Chase in 2004, it originally was called the Warwick National Chase. With 3m 5f to travel and 22 of Warwicks tricky fences to negotiate it is not a race for the faint hearted and is a contest on the schedule of many Grand National aspirants. Interestingly no horse has managed the double to date. Weight has been no bar to success with four winners shouldering more than 11st in the past decade. There have been no winners younger than seven and the 11yo D’Argent has been the oldest animal to win in the same timespan. Alan King and Paul Nicholls have both trained two winners, with Colin Tizzard, Emma Lavelle, and Venetia Williams on the scoresheet once. Experience while desirable, is not essential. Baron Windrush and Eurotrek, winners in 2005 and 2006 had only competed in ten chases between them, and last years winner, Shotgun Paddy, was having only his fourth outing over the larger obstacles.
Philip Hobbs’s Return Spring with only three runs in chases has a somewhat similar profile in this years renewal, and at the time of writing heads the market at 5/1. A latecomer to chasing, he has performed with credit in his last two races. Last time he ran third to the highly promising Kings Palace and his own stable companion Sausalito Sunrise at Cheltenham in December, having previously got the better of Highland Retreat in a 3ml novices chase on heavy ground at Exeter. However both races were four runner affairs, so it remains to be seen how he copes with Saturday’s large field. On the plus side judging from his breeding ( by Vinnie Roe out of a Supreme Leader mare ) and his racecourse appearances, he is all about stamina, so should be well served by Saturday’s likely conditions.
Last years winner, Shotgun Paddy is only 4lbs higher this time round so must be seriously considered. In last years renewal he beat that hardy old warrior Carruthers, ( 11lbs better off this year ) by 6l and went on to run a marvellous race in the 4ml amateur chase at the Cheltenham festival going down by a hd to Midnight Prayer. Brought along slowly by his excellent trainer, Emma Lavelle, he was having only his second run since Cheltenham, when nearly capsizing at the 2nd in the Welsh National. He was pulled up five fences later, and in view of the awful ground this may well have been a blessing in disguise. Definitley one for the short list!
Martin Keighley’s Benbane Head ran a fine race four weeks ago. The evergreen 11yo stayed on strongly up the Cheltenham hill to draw clear of the well backed favourite The Ould Lad to win by 9l off a mark of 127. He is up a quite severe looking 8lbs on Saturday, but will have the benefit of Conor Shoemarks 3lbs claim. While he did win a bumper on heavy ground, testing conditions, one feels would be against him.
Oliver Sherwood’s Global Power has a nice racing weight of 10st7lbs and looks well treated. Having his first run for 12 months, and probably needing it he was beaten 7l by Ballyoliver at Carlisle. He is 6lbs better off on Saturday so must have good prospects of reversing the form, particularly as he improved again to run Theatrical Star to a nk at Fontwell despite making a mistake at the last. Given testing conditions at the weekend he is well worth considering.
Alan Kings 2011 winner, the 13yo West End Rocker is another defying old Father Time. He showed that he still has what it takes when winning a veterans race when ploughing through the mud at Lingfield in December off a mark of 135. Despite a 4lb rise he is only 6lbs higher than 2011 and as his trainer reports him to be in top condition he is another to consider.
Venetia William’s 10yo Rigadin de Beauchene has to defy a 21lbs higher mark than when successful in 2013. He has not run for nearly nine months but did win a cl1 gd3 chase at Haydock last Febuary very easily off a mark of131 after a similar break. He is obviously an animal that goes well fresh but having been pulled up in four of his last races and now racing off 143 he is hard to recommend. Perhaps the stables best chance is with their other runner Ballyoliver.
Selection: Shotgun Paddy.
E.W : Global Power.