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9th February 2022 Warwick

By Nick Seddon

Dan Skelton is hoping that Third Time Lucki can take advantage of the quicker conditions by reversing the form with Edwardstone when the pair lock horns in the Grade Two Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick on Saturday (12th February).

The seven year old has been one of the standout novice chasers on this side of the Irish Sea so far this campaign, winning three of his four starts, with his only defeat coming when third behind the Alan King-trained Edwardstone in the Grade One Close Brothers Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park in December.

Conditions proved to be rather testing at the Esher venue and after bouncing back with a facile 30-length victory in Grade Two company at Doncaster a fortnight ago, Skelton is hopeful that his charge can level the scores on ground which will be more to suit in Saturday’s 2m contest.

He said: “I was happy with Third Time Lucki this morning after just giving him a little breeze and everything was good. The reason we’re going to Warwick is because the ground is hanging on. If there was nothing but rain forecast I wouldn’t have even entered him, but he’s in nice form and I think the track will suit him.

“Obviously Edwardstone is turning up which will be a harder task, but I like the idea of being there on good ground. Knowing what we know now, I think we’re entitled to think we’ve got a better chance of beating Edwardstone because of the ground.

“I think if we met him on Sandown ground we wouldn’t actually meet because I’d protect my horse from that, so we’re meeting on what should be nice ground and it gives us reasons for optimism.

“With the ground in our favour I think we can turn the tables. If it went soft I wouldn’t run him as the advantage switches to Edwardstone at that point. I believe having seen more and more of our horse – you saw how effective he was at Doncaster when he could use all of his speed – he needs better ground.

“I’m not going to take anything away from our defeat at Sandown. I think as much as the ground was a little soft for us that day it was a third quick run at the start of the season. That was probably as much our undoing as well as how we tried to ride him as much as anything. We’ve learned a lot as we’ve gone through the season with him and I’m looking forward to running him on Saturday. If we got some rain out of nowhere his participation would be in doubt but as it stands he’s running.”

There were initially fears that Third Time Lucki had suffered an overreach during his victory at Doncaster last month, but Skelton revealed that the son of Arcadio had come out of that excursion well.

He added: “We were worried about him after Doncaster but he just had a tiny little overreach when he came back in and it actually turned out to be nothing. He was excellent that day though and that’s the horse that we know we’ve got.

“He loves decent ground and he showed what we always hoped he was capable of. I know that perhaps it wasn’t the deepest race in the world, but he did do it with a penalty and it’s hard to win Graded races with a penalty so he looked very good that day.

“We’ve worked out a lot about him and I’m coming here because I’ve got a theory that when it starts raining it’s going to keep raining and I can just envisage a scenario where Cheltenham is very soft, because we’ve had no rain.

“All the old sages will tell you that throughout the year everywhere gets the same amount of rain and if you don’t get it one month you get it another. I’m probably overthinking it to be honest, but if it came up really soft at Cheltenham, Third Time Lucki wouldn’t be there.”

Sponsor Virgin Bet make Edwardstone Evens favourite for glory on Saturday with Third Time Lucki at 7-4.

Skelton has a strong hand for Saturday’s card and has a pair of entries for the Listed Virgin Bet Warwick Mares' Hurdle (2m 5f) in Get A Tonic and Molly Ollys Wishes, though he revealed that only one would take their chance at the weekend.

He commented: “I’m yet to decide who runs in this and need to take a look at the ground. Molly Ollys Wishes only ran 21 days ago and it’s no gimme with who’s entered so an extra week before the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock Park could be high on the agenda.

“I’m going to work her second lot today and that will give me an indication of her wellbeing and then we’ll look at the ground. It’s borderline for her and if I didn’t run Molly Ollys Wishes I’d run Get A Tonic, but obviously being a novice you’d have to be realistic about her chances against higher-rated horses. I don’t think she’s a back number though and she could be significantly above average – especially when she goes over fences next season.”

Skelton also sends out top weight Amoola Gold in the Virgin Bet Warwick Castle Handicap Chase (2m 4f). The nine year old picked up a nice amount of prize money when following home Grade One performers Shishkin, Energumene and First Flow in last month’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot and his trainer feels that the step up to two and a half miles will help.

He said: “He’s always been begging for a step up in trip. He’s obviously significantly better at Ascot than anywhere else according to his form, but he’s been desperate for a step up in trip and I can’t wait to do it. He ran well over two miles at Warwick last year behind the horse who went on to win the Grand Annual (Sky Pirate), so the track is okay for him and I think the trip will bring about improvement.

“He has run well here, so we’re going to give it a go. Top-weight is hard but he’s a classy horse and has won a stack of races, so I can’t see why he can’t be competitive in this.”

Meanwhile, Clerk of the Course Tom Ryall provided the following update on the track.

Ryall said: “We’re calling it Good to Soft, Soft in places at the minute. We’ve had a dry couple of weeks but we were lucky in that we got nearly 20mm from Friday to Sunday.

“The forecast is dry from now on and we’re in a good place and it’s not going to dry out too much.”


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