Although only five went to post for Warwick’s feature UBS Wealth Management Novices’ Handicap Chase on Monday, the race produced a stirring finish, with top-weight Doitforthevillage just keeping his head in front to record his fifth win of the season, writes David Hucker.
Trained by Paul Henderson at Whitsbury in Hampshire, Doitforthevillage was sent off joint-favourite with I’dliketheoption to land this £25,000 contest. Given a fine front-running ride by Paddy Brennan, Doitforthevillage, who had been caught close home in a similar race in February, made no mistake this time, staying on well to hold the late challenge of Abidjan, who showed improved form on his third start for the Dan Skelton stable.
Those who follow the money collected on Abbotswood in the opening £188 First Goals Wins At 188Bet Maiden Hurdle, as Richard Johnson’s mount shortened to 11-10 just before the off, displacing Bradford Bridge at the head of the market.
In a slowly-run race, Midnight Merlot and Bradford Bridge disputed the lead for much of the two miles and five furlongs contest, with Johnson, who is the leading rider at the course this season, poised in behind on Abbotswood, who hugged the inside rail throughout.
With Speedalong also coming with a strong run as the runners faced up to the final two jumps, a close finish looked in prospect but, in the end, it was the favourite who proved the strongest to bring up the champion jockey’s 12th winner at the track this season and his 181st in all as he closes in on a second title.
Fourteen winners in the last two weeks had lifted Dan Skelton’s seasonal tally to 115, his best in a short, but burgeoning, training career, and his Atlantic Storm headed the early betting at 7-4 in the following PJ & KR Smith-Maxwell Horse Ambulances Handicap Hurdle ahead of The Tailgater.
Punters weren’t keen to dive in, however, and Atlantic Storm drifted in price, gong off at 3-1. He never looked like taking a hand in the finish, coming home only fourth behind Minstrel Royal, who was brought with a well-timed challenge by Jeremiah McGrath to join leader Earls Fort at the penultimate flight and produce the better turn of foot on the run-in.
There were three course winners in the £10,000 Best Odds Guaranteed At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle, and it was 4-1 shot The Tourard Man who came out on top, leading at the final hurdle to beat favourite Thumb Stone Blues, with outsider Dragon’s Den running on for third.
Robin Of Locksley had made all the running when winning here last month, but he wasn’t allowed to set up such a big lead this time and folded tamely when the others came to him at the penultimate flight. The other course winner Golden Doyen departed early in the race, although followed the rest of the runners around riderless, apparently none the worse for his tumble.
He may have been the outsider of the field, but Big Casino led his rivals a merry dance in the long-distance 188Bet Handicap Chase, jumping boldly in front for Sam Twiston-Davies and then digging deep when challenged by top-weight Global Storm on the run to the line.
Team Skelton got on the scoresheet when Not That Fuisse, a €20,000 purchase, cruised to the front with a furlong to go and ran away with the first division of the racinguk.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, with World Premier an equally impressive winner of the second division for Bourton-on-the-Water trainer Ben Pauling.
Odds-on favourite Bear’s Affair jumped past leader Iron Chancellor at the second last fence to go clear and record an easy win in the concluding Warwick Folk Festival Crudwell Cup Open Hunters’ Chase.