THE VIRGIN BET PRELUDE HANDICAP CHASE
The £50,000 Virgin Bet Prelude Handicap Chase will be run for the 16th time at Market Rasen Racecourse on Saturday, 19th October, one of two feature races on Autumn Ladies’ Day.
First run in 2004, the contest is always a wide open and competitively contested affair over the extended two-mile five-furlong trip.
Three jockeys – four-time champion Richard Johnson, Grand National-winning rider Daryl Jacob and Tom O’Brien - have enjoyed two victories apiece while, among the trainers, Welshman Peter Bowen holds sway with three consecutive wins between 2007 and 2009.
Like the Prelude Hurdle in which no favourite has finished better than second until this year, punters have had a tricky time picking the winner in the corresponding handicap chase. In the 15 races to date, just two favourites have finished first, both of them joint market leaders – Oscar Rock at 4-1 in 2015 and 9-2 chance Vintage Vinnie 12 months later. Three of the successful horses have been priced at 20-1 or longer. The average starting price has been in excess of 10-1.
Silmi was successful under the minimum weight of 10 stone in 2010 for jockey Richie McLernon. At the other end of the scale, Iron Man shouldered top weight to win for rider Paddy Merrigan 12 years ago.
Iron Man was the first of Peter Bowen’s trio of winners. Always Waining followed up in 2008, while Valley Ride triumphed in 2009.
In the latest renewal, the valuable prize headed to the yard of Worcestershire trainer Ian Williams; Royal Village giving Tom O’Brien his second victory in the saddle ten years after his first. The horse’s win was the culmination of a successful summer campaign which had included a midsummer triumph at Market Rasen. The horse was subsequently runner-up in this year’s Listed Betway Summer Plate.
So, who will emerge victorious in the Virgin Bet Prelude Handicap Chase of 2019? It’s certain to be a hot race again, with a good field of runners, and it’s likely once more to be a tricky puzzle for punters to solve.