Spring has definitely sprung and on a stunning day for racing at Warwick, owners who were making a long-awaited return to the track were treated to competitive contests aplenty.
Several of the winners on the card look destined to be busy in the coming weeks, while other runners were making their final appearances of the season. We sent Nick Seddon to report on the action …
ALL ROADS LEAD TO PUNCHESTOWN FOR CAID DU BERLAIS
Along with the return of owners to racecourses this week, amateur riders have also been able to resume duties in the saddle. One of them, Will Biddick, was in charge for the most impressive winner of the day as Caid Du Berlais took the Air Wedding Open Hunters' Chase with plenty to spare.
Sent off the 1-8 favourite, there was never a moment’s worry for the 12 year old, who warmed up for a trip to Ireland next month with a comfortable success, defeating Bishops Road unchallenged by some 41 lengths.
All roads now lead to Punchestown for Caid Du Berlais, who will be aiming to complete a hat-trick in the Champion Hunters Chase after victories in 2018 and 2019.
Biddick was unable to make the same trip 12 months ago due to the pandemic and he said: “He’s a super horse and he’s been a good servant. He’s the sort of class horse you need in these championship hunter chases, he’s not getting any younger but he’s still got fire in his belly and that was a good effort.
“Sam Loxton is now doing a fantastic job and carrying on the legacy of Rose, and it was a shame we didn’t get to go to Punchestown for the hat-trick with it being COVID, but we’ll try and go there now with him in good spirits after this.”
DELIGHTED SKELTON HAILS HIS KING AFTER EASY WIN
As you’d expect from Warwick’s leading trainer for the season, it proved to be another good day for the Dan Skelton team, who celebrated a double on the card.
The second of those victories was delivered by King D’argent, who won the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Chase in good style, pulling clear in the closing stages to record an eight and a half length success.
It means King D’argent has now won three of his four starts over fences and Skelton admitted that the six year old’s progression this term had even taken him by surprise.
He said: “I’m actually gobsmacked at how much he’s improved over a fence. I never in my wildest dreams thought he’d be winning off 135 with such authority, but it just shows you that those juveniles can sometimes get lost in the wilderness a year afterwards. I’m not sure why - maybe they’re just maturing, but he’s the perfect advert for that.
“He loves jumping and I think this track is the ultimate – he loves those five fences down the back – and he’s been a credit to himself. His owners have been patient with him because he had a dull old year last year, but he’s better than ever so fair play.”
BLACK POPPY BLOSSOMS AT A BIG PRICE FOR LEE
It’s been a bittersweet couple of weeks for Kerry Lee, as the trainer bid farewell to stable star Happy Diva, who was retired after her run in the Paddy Power Plate at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, there looks to be some nice talent coming through at Bell House and Black Poppy is certainly one to follow after winning the first division of the racingtv.com Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race in good style.
Lee was pleased her 25-1 winner, who looks a nice prospect, but insisted there she won’t be getting carried away just yet. She explained: “You can never be too sure about a bumper horse. He’s won very nicely and shown a professional attitude, so fingers crossed he can progress on that.
“We’ll see how he comes out of this, but we’re certainly not plotting to go to Aintree or anything with him. It’s only a couple of weeks away so I’d say that’d be too quick. We’ll not worry too much and work from there, but he’s a nice horse.”
MITCHELL HAS RAISON TO BE CHEERFUL
One runner we could see turned back out in the near future is the Nick Mitchell-trained Pour Une Raison, who returned to winning ways with a nine lengths success in the Every Race Live On Racing TV Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
It was a welcome return to form for the six year old and his trainer remains hopeful that there will be a few opportunities for his charge in the spring, now that everything has seemingly clicked into place.
He said: “I think the step up in trip and the visor has worked a treat today, and the better ground as he travelled better. In the past he’s hit flat spots all the time, but he didn’t today, so that’s really good.
“I’m glad Tom (Bellamy) turned around and had a look up the run-in! He’s still a young horse, he’ll jump a fence one day and the races will pick themselves as they’ll have to be his grade and over three mile-plus, you’d think.”
GASSON JUMPS FOR JOY ON A DAY TO REMEMBER
Owners are back at racecourses all over Britain, but with only two per runner permitted on course there were not too many still at the track for the final race of the day.
However, those who were enjoying the sunshine were treated to wild celebrations as the second division of the bumper drew to a close. Trainer Rosemary Gasson could not hide her delight at Sidewaysinmilan’s success – her first in a bumper.
Gasson ran across the parade ring with her arms aloft and later explained what it meant to her with a yard of just eight horses.
She explained: “I’m so amazed because there’s guys here who are bumper specialists. We’re only a very small outfit, so it’s great. We’ve got eight in training and we just do it for us – call it a hobby, though it’s so all-consuming! We’ll put him away now and he’ll be going chasing in time.”