Warwick’s feature on Saturday, was run as the Brooke Bond Oxo Warwick National until 2000, when following a 3 year hiatus, it was reincarnated as The Classic Chase, and its most notable winner since has been the 2017 Aintree Hero, One For Arthur. No animal in the entire history of the event has managed to win the race twice but this year we have the 2018 winner, Milansbar, and last year’s victor, Impulsive Star, attempting to double up.
The former went on to run two more excellent races in 2018, finishing 2nd to Saturday’s opponent, Regal Flow, in The Midlands Grand National, and then finishing an honourable 5th in the real version at Aintree. It has been all downhill since, including last time, when he finished a distant last over the course in November, so perhaps at 13, age is having its say. Impulsive Star hasn’t exactly set the racing world alight either since last year’s victory, ( pulled up in all 3 starts) but as a result, this relatively lightly raced 10yo, gets to race on Saturday off a mark only 4 lbs higher than 2019, and one has the feeling that a repeat victory has always been the target. Last year, he jumped soundly over Warwick’s tricky fences, and outstayed the runner up, Callet Made, to land the spoils pretty comfortably under a sound ride from his owner, the talented amateur Sam Walley-Cohen, (claims 3lbs) and it won’t come as a great surprise if Sam Is celebrating again on Saturday.
Dorset handler, Colin Tizzard won with the 9yo Hey Big Spender In 2012 and will be hoping to bring the prize back to Milborne Port for a second time with the 2 years younger Darlac. The 7yo has failed to hit the back of the net in his 4 races over fences, but was only beaten a neck in a beginners Chase at Fontwell in October. However his other 3 attempts, all around 2m4f, have been pretty undistinguished, and I can only presume that connections are hopeful, rather than optimistic, that their son of The St Leger winner Lucarno, is going to seriously improve for Saturday’s step up in trip.
The ex Irish 8yo, The Conditional’s sole success under rules in his native country came in a modest Thurles Maiden Hurdle nearly 2 years ago, but since joining the Gloucestershire yard of David Bridgewater last September, his form figures read 3 1 2. The win came in a Cheltenham Class2 Chase (3m1f Soft) at the end of October and he put in an even better effort last time, when despite a mistake at the last, he got to within 1 1/2L of De Rasher Counter in the hugely competitive Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury 6 weeks ago. By leading National Hunt stallion, Kalinisi, out of a Saddlers Hall mare, he is bred be a strong stayer, likes testing conditions, and is only 5 lbs higher than Newbury.
The Tom Lacey trained 8yo Kimberlite Candy, has won 3 of his 14 starts over fences and put in an excellent effort last time to finish 2nd in the Becher Chase (3m2f Soft) over the National fences. Racing off a mark of 137, he stayed on well from the last, and this mud loving, strong stayer, who is a half brother to the 2005 winner, Hawkes Point, racing off a mark of 140, has plenty to recommend him.
Following a workmanlike victory in a Chepstow Novices Handicap 13 months ago the Handicapper put the Philip Hobbs trained 8yo Steely Addition, up a very harsh looking 13 lbs and his sole success since has been in a Class4 Novices Chase at Hereford. Having finished a well beaten last of 4 at Sandown last time (Nov10) the Handicapper has relented a little, and dropped him 3 lbs to a mark of 147 which still leaves him with the not inconsiderable burden of 11-11 to carry on Saturday.
At the ripe old age of 11 the Fergal O’Brien trained Petite Power looks an improved performer, and he put in a career best effort last time when failing by a neck to win a Class3 Exeter Handicap, (3m6 1/2f Soft) off a mark of 125. He will have to do even better to win on Saturday off 131, but on his seasonal debut, coming back from a 516 days break, he won a Cheltenham Class3 off a mark of 115 in October, and 23 days later landed another Class3, at Uttoxeter (3m2f Heavy) off a 5 lbs higher mark. He has a nice racing weight of 10-9 and if there is further improvement to be found, Fergal is the man to find it.
Hats off to the veteran, Regal Flow if he can become the first teenager to win the contest, as he will be trying to do so having had a really tough race just 7 days ago. The sprightly 13yo raced prominently throughout the valuable Unibet Veterans Handicap Chase at Sandown (3m Soft) last Saturday, and despite being carried right after the last, stayed on with great gusto, to lose out by the shortest of short heads. A winner of the Midlands Grand National, Saturday’s trip will be fine, and he has an excellent record over the Warwick fences with a win and a close 3rd from his 2 appearances. If fully recovered from his Sandown effort, with just 10-8 to carry he has to be considered.
Selection. : The Conditional. If Absent Kimberlite Candy
EW Petite Power