THE fields at Warwick in Saturday were a little disappointing, but another 10 runners would not have improved the Grade 2 Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, and the contest was an event of rare quality for the time of year.
Edwardstone (Alan King/Tom Cannon), sent off at 10/11 favourite, set a high bar after winning the Grade 1 Henry VIII at Sandown and the Wayward Lad at Kempton in December, but both Third Time Lucki (Dan/Harry Skelton) and Brave Seasca (Venetia Williams/Gavin Sheehan) arrived on the back of impressive wins, and ensured that there would be no quarter asked.
As expected, For Pleasure set a strong pace until joined by Brave Seasca and the favourite five out. The three were in the air together, but Edwardstone soon pressed on, and entered the home straight travelling powerfully.
Third Time Lucki adapted well to hold-up tactics at Doncaster, and was again ridden to produce a late challenge, but while he was apparently full of running turning for home, he was unable to match the kick of the winner, staying on only for a creditable second place, beaten four and a quarter lengths by the impressive winner.
Edwardstone was a marginal favourite for the Arkle before this race, but hardened on the back of another ruthlessly efficient display. His trainer is enduring an extended barren run at the Cheltenham Festival – 86 consecutive losers – and Edwardstone has been out of the places only three times in his completed starts under rules, with all of those runs coming at Cheltenham, but those statistics don’t do him credit, and he ran well to finish a close fifth in the County Hurdle last season.
You can knock the numbers all you like, but it’s hard not to admire the horse, and he goes to the Arkle with leading claims.
Mature Marie’s Rock now looks more solid
BIG things were forecast for Marie’s Rock when she won her first three starts, with the Champion Hurdle mooted as a possible target.
She has not developed as hoped, largely due to a headstrong nature, but she has got back on track as she has matured this winter, and won the Listed Virgin Bet Warwick Mares’ Hurdle by a comfortable three lengths from Get A Tonic, having been backed into joint-favourite at 6/4.
The race may not have taken much winning with the other market leader, Indefatigable was unsuited by the way the race developed, but the winner is altogether more tractable these days, and may yet have a big payday in her, with Tom Palin of Middleham Park Racing keen to let her take her chance in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
That may be a stretch for her, but as Palin points out, it looks an open race this season.