Betfred Classic Handicap Chase 3m5f Warwick Saturday – When run as The Warwick National up to 2004, plenty of lightweights made it into the winners enclosure, and indeed two runners actually won from out of the handicap in the 1990s. However since it’s relaunch in 2004 as The Classic, with it’s increased prize money, higher rated animals have been to the fore, like the Tizzard trained Hey Big Spender who won with 11st12lbs on his back in2012 and Emma Lavelle’s Shotgun Paddy who carried 11st7lbs three years ago. Run over 29f, usually on pretty attritional ground, and with those tricky fences down the back straight at Warwick to negotiate, it isn’t a race for the faint hearted. Unsurprisingly, experience counts, with eight of the last nine winners having competed in at least nine chases. The exception was Shotgun Paddy, (running again on Saturday) who also finished third two years ago. A recent run has been important, and all of the last ten winners had been on a racecourse in the previous six weeks. Significantly, at a tight course like Warwick, previous success going left handed has been very important, as has winning form at 3m or further. Alan King with two wins under his belt knows what is required, but out in front of him with three wins, is the master of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, and his joint top weight on Saturday, Vivaldi Collonges merits a close look.
An 8yo, Vivaldi Collonges was a dismal failure in last years renewal, trailing in 75L behind the winner Russe Blanc, but went on to win his next two races in grand style, one of them over the course. He was a poor third on his reappearance ten weeks ago but can be expected to have benefited from the outing. He is very stoutly bred, and indeed is closely related to Paul’s Grand National winner Neptune Collonges, so Saturday’s trip should be right up his street. A year older and more experienced than last year, a much more prominent display is anticipated, and it won’t come as a great surprise if he equals Hey Big Spenders weight carrying performance of five years ago, and brings home the bacon.
Having his first race since June, The Tom Symonds trained 10yo, Kaki De La Pree ran a promising race at Bangor 36 days ago, finishing second to the upwardly mobile Ballyboker Breeze off a mark of 135. As the latter has gone up 10lbs, Kaki De La Pree’s mark of 137 on Saturday looks fairly generous and as this runner from the in form Symonds yard enjoys testing conditions, he can make his presence felt.
The last time we saw a winner of the race from Pond House was over a quarter of a century ago when father, Martin, saddled the 11yo Aquilifer to win in 1991. However, son David may improve the Pipe record on Saturday with his 9yo, Doctor Harper. Sent off the 4/1 fav for the 26f Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival he was never in contention, and unseated at the 2nd last. His next two runs were little better, but showed he had turned the corner 13 days ago at Cheltenham. Racing on his favoured soft ground, over an extended 26f, and staying on strongly, he failed by the minimum distance to reel in the winner Tour de Champs, and had the favourite Arpege D’Alene, 1 3/4L back in third. This was only his 7th race over fences so there could be plenty more to come at staying distances and his new mark of 143 looks well within his compass.
The stoutly bred 9yo, Viva Steve displayed his stamina credentials when staying on strongly over 24f in the Ayrshire mud off a mark of 132 in November and can be competitive off his new mark of 139.
Alan King’s 9yo Sego Success hit the deck at the second fence in last year’s renewal, when racing off a mark of 146, he started the 7/1 fav. He ran quite a promising race last time when keeping on for fourth over an inadequate 24f at Doncaster, and as he is 6lbs lower than last year, has to be of interest. A course winner on his only other Warwick appearance, it would be nice to see his owner, Timmy Leadbetter, a great supporter of the winter game, in the winners enclosure.
Lucinda Russell’s 8yo, One for Arthur looked an out and out stayer when winning easily over 26f at Kelso in October racing off a mark of 127. He confirmed the impression when staying on well over the Grand National fences, (26f Gd-Sft) six weeks ago to get within 3L of the winner off 137. Racing off the same mark on Saturday he’s well worth a second look.
Selection: Vivaldi Collonges
E.W. Doctor Harper (if abs) One For Arthur