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Warwick feature races preview

Decent National Hunt racing at Warwick tomorrow, but unfortunately, the fields are a bit on the thin side. It's a welcome return to David Massey, @tenembassy

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Warwick Preview

I was, of course, hoping to write this preview up for Warwick’s big races this weekend with competitive fields, but sadly both races have rather cut up and we’re left with small fields, again. It’s something that needs addressing and the arguments for possibly scrapping some Grade 2/3 contests in the racing calendar can be debated by people far more handsomer and cleverer than myself – I’m here to try and squeeze what value, if any, there could to be in the Listed Mares contest and the Kingmaker Chase for sportismadeforbetting readers.

2.10 – OLBG Listed Mares Hurdle
OLBG are to be applauded for their sponsorship of a series that plenty wouldn’t go near, and they’ve been rewarded with some decent, competitive events along the way. At first glance, this would appear not to be one that’s going to live too long in the memory, but it’s a race that asks a few questions regardless.

The main one being as to which way Petite Parisienne is heading. Last May, at both Fairyhouse and Punchestown, she looked a mare of some potential, running Bitofapuzzle (who was in tremendous form) to four lengths at then winning the Champion 4-y-o Hurdle with a degree of ease. Sadly, from this point, it all starts to go wrong – an Auteuil flop is easily enough forgiven as she may well have had enough for the season, but her reappearance at Naas in November, when vastly favoured by the weights, takes a little more explaining. And then latterly at Sandown, where after pulling too hard early she was a spent force by two out. Connections go for the hood to try and solve the latter issue, but even if that works, there’s little evidence that 2m5f in heavy going will bring out the best in her. As much as she’s favoured again at the weights, there’s a possibility she’s simply going backwards, and there’s too much to take on trust, even allowing for Willie Mullins’s good record at Warwick.

Jessber’s Dream is one that won’t have any issue with the ground, having already taken a couple of small Novice events at Lingfield and Exeter, and stepped up on those efforts when second to Mullins’s Myska at Taunton. She travelled well throughout that contest, although a tendency to go to her right under pressure in the straight (into the worst of the ground) didn’t help her cause. If she does that at Warwick, she will at least end up on the favoured stands side, and given that this step up in trip looks a positive (is a winning pointer) Noel Fehily may well set out to try and make most of the running here.

Vroum Vroum Mag fans will be looking for a Festival form boost from Jennies Jewel. She’s the one you can almost set your watch by, having had almost 30 goes over hurdles already, and we know exactly what she can do and what she can’t. She’s capable enough at this level and given she generally takes a run or two to get fit, there’s no reason to think she didn’t run right up to her best at Ascot. At the weights she’s a chance, and this slight drop back in trip will help, but her overall win record isn’t great for one of her ability. Jessber’s Dream may well have more to come and could improve past her.

The other three – Flute Bowl, Grape Tree Road and Bobs Lady Tamure – may all struggle outside of handicap company. They will probably be scrapping it out for the diesel money, and of the three, if Flute Bowl puts her best foot forward she’ll probably take the lion’s share of it, but they’ll be looking for the front three to run below their level to get involved for anything bigger.

There’s probably less questions about Jessber’s Dream than Petite Parisienne or Jennies Jewel here, and at anything around the 9-4 mark I’d have a small bet on her.

2.40 7Bets4Free.com Kingmaker Novices Chase (2m)
A real shame to only see the three runners line up for a race that has given us some exciting finishes in recent times – Gauvain bravely battling back to chin Cornas and Free World when this race held at Sandown, and a near-legless Majala scrambling home from His Excellency after being ten lengths clear at the last (which I remember well, as I was on the second) but it looks odds-against that we’re going to get anything that gets the pulse racing like that today.

And we might not learn much more about hot favourite L’Ami Serge than we already do from his short chasing career to date, although it must be said that neither Violet Dancer nor Fox Norton are mugs, and might at least give him something to think about this time. He culminated last season with a hard-gained fourth in the Supreme to Douvan at Cheltenham, a race that saw him off the bridle from an early stage. It may well have been the ground was a little too quick for him at the minimum trip, one that leads me to believe the JLT will ultimately be his target come March if the ground does dry (will it ever dry up, we ask ourselves?) but for the time being he’s had little more than schooling exercises at Plumpton against a handicap-mark-seeking Doctor Harper and the useful Run Ructions Run at Wetherby. He won’t even have to worry about leading these out – Violet Dancer will see to that – and if he’s got claims to one of the chasing crowns come March you’d expect him to win this without too much fuss. If there’s a straw to clutch at, if you’re trying to get him beat, it’s the very patchy form of the Henderson yard (plenty not finishing their races off) but even that looks a pretty thin straw….

Twelve months ago Gary Moore’s Violet Dancer was winning the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in game, front-running fashion, a style already replicated in his four runs over fences to date, and never more evident that when rallying to worry Stiletto out of it at Newbury on his latest start. Of his four starts, that was probably his least convincing round of jumping to date, and he’ll need to be foot perfect down the back here – the fences come thick and fast. Even if he does wing them, he’ll find L’Ami Serge a rather more difficult opponent to shake off than Stiletto, with all due respect to him. The Grand Annual looks the target for him. Whereas Aintree would look the natural target for Fox Norton. A flat track and better ground suit him best, and he may well find conditions against him here. He’s useful though, and has been far from disgraced in Grade 2 events at Cheltenham and Doncaster. Possibly best in the Spring and one to note come April.

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