The Grade 3 Classic Chase tops the bill at Warwick on Saturday. The staying handicap is put under the microscope along with a big race tip courtesy of QuinnBet's Bet £10 Get £25 of Free Bets and 10 Free Spins new customer offer.
Few races will have been abandoned quite as much as Warwick’s Classic Chase has been in its history. First run in 1973, there have been no fewer than 13 cancellations due to inclement weather conditions impacting the track due to its position just a couple of weeks into the new year.
A staying handicap, run over 3m 5f, it should set up for a Grand National types, but the weights publication for the Aintree showpiece comes within a month of the Classic Chase, meaning performances in this race are taken into account. As such, it has proven a difficult double to pull off, with only One For Arthur doing so with victory in both races in 2017.
The Classic Chase is also a fascinating case study for how difficult it can be to win a race more than once. Remarkably, no horse has ever won this contest twice. Perhaps this is due to a period between 1989 and 2008 where 12 of the 17 victors were aged over 10, immediately making it more difficult for the aged heroes to follow up next season.
As with many staying chases, there has been a correctional trend since in favour of slightly younger horses, with only two horses in the “veterans” bracket (aged over 10) successful since that time in Hawkes Point and Milansbar.
Moreover, it is not just the equine participants who have struggled to make a claim to the race. Four jockeys have won the race twice, but it is very unusual that nobody has claimed a hat-trick, while 11 different jockeys have won the Classic Chase in its last 11 renewals. Only Alan King has claimed it more than once as a trainer in that time, while he and Paul Nicholls have three victories each at the top of the standings.
There is neither a correlation in terms of the weight carried by the winners. It is the ultimate trend-busting handicap and it is much more important to study form first.
Notachance (near side) is ridden away from the last by Tom Cannon before going on to defeat Achille and Charlie Deutsch in last year's renewal.
This Year’s Field
Not good news then for Notachance who will bid to double up on last year’s success and be the first horse to do so in the process. Things have not gone at all to plan for him since though, with three Ps next to last year’s “1” and he was a well-beaten sixth last time out at Haydock. He has returned to last season’s winning mark, but it would have been more encouraging to have witnessed more sign of life recently.
The weights are far more condensed than a year ago, with top-weight and novice Corach Rambler a full 18lb below last year’s equivalent Ballyoptic. He represents One For Arthur’s winning duo of Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox and has won two novice handicaps over 3m 1f in good style, suggesting stamina is very much the eight-year-old’s forte.
Pushing him for favourite is David Pipe’s Gericault Roque. Although he has been beaten on his three chase starts so far, he has improved in each, finishing runner-up the last twice. There is likely no coincidence that such improvement has come from stepping up in trip each time and he bumped into a rapidly improving chaser in Saint Palais last time.
Last year’s runner-up Achille is another to note for Venetia Williams. 4lb higher than when only narrowly denied a year ago, he has run well in all four starts since without winning, including when fourth in the Welsh National last time out. Another relatively lightly-raced over jumps for his age is Padleyourowncanoe now with Dan Skleton, and who made a promising return over hurdles at Haydock last month.
All of Minella Encore, Chirico Vallis and Head To The Stars arrive here off the back of recent successes, but perhaps the most interesting horse in the race would be Grace A Vous Enki for Paul Nicholls.
He would be making his British chase debut here, something no other British-trainer runner has ever done in this race. He would be racing off higher than his current hurdles mark, but he had previously been a chaser in France, winning two races at Auteuil in 2020. If stamina is to be his forte, he will need to be showing it here given he is only a six-year-old.
Big Race Verdict
It’s a tough ask for Corach Rambler to concede weight all round in his first open handicap. That said, he and others who have potential at this trip are preferred to those more experienced, though the grey Achille could go well. Preference is for GERICAULT ROQUE, who will have to contend with a 6lb rise for only finishing second in Newbury, but the winner is immensely progressive and David Pipe’s six-year-old has improved for every step up in trip over fences.
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