Key connections and punting pointers for big betting race at Warwick
Betfred Classic Handicap Chase (Grade 3) | 3m5f | 5yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Has the handicapper let Missed Approach in lightly?
Missed Approach, runner-up to Tiger Roll in the 4m JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup at Cheltenham last year, had an official rating of 148 when he tackled Ayr’s Scottish Grand National on his final start of the campaign.
He raced off 145 when a highly creditable sixth behind Total Recall in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury in November, and has since been dropped 6lb by the handicapper to 139.
Always held in high regard by trainer Warren Greatrex, it appears the handicapper has given the eight-year-old a major chance in a race which should bring the best out of him.
Greatrex said: “I was pleasantly surprised the handicapper dropped him so much after Newbury. He ran a really good race for a long way there, and was still upsides two out.
“He’s in good form, the trip and track should suit, and he must have a big chance.”
Will 2016 hero Russe Blanc prove best of Kerry Lee's trio?
Russe Blanc, winner of this stamina test two years ago off a mark of 127, competes off a 2lb lower mark this time, and is clearly well handicapped on his best form.
Kerry Lee’s stayer left the impression he retains plenty of ability prior to unseating his rider in a 3m4f handicap chase at Haydock won by Hainan in November, and boasts a 50 per cent strike-rate at Warwick with two wins from four starts.
Female trainers have won three of the last four renewals of this race and Lee, who also runs Goodtoknow and Krackatoa King, said: “I would prefer the ground to be heavy for Russe Blanc, but he’s in good form.
“Krackatoa King has been ultra-consistent since he joined me, loves the mud, and looks nicely weighted.
“Goodtoknow finished second in the race last year, but endured a rotten, interrupted start to this season. We hope he has turned the corner and it’s now a case of onwards and upwards.”
Can Cresswell Breeze continue her improvement in long-distance chases?
Thoroughly likeable mare Cresswell Breeze has really come to the fore in marathon chases this winter, landing the Southern National at Fontwell in November prior to finishing an excellent third at Sandown to Benbens in the London National.
Her slick jumping, bottomless stamina and prominent style of racing look ideal for Warwick, where an ability to get into a pounding rhythm – particularly down the far side where the fences arrive in quick succession – is essential.
Anthony Honeyball, who is enjoying a great season, resisted the temptation to send Cresswell Breeze to Catterick on Thursday for the North Yorkshire Grand National to wait for this prize, which, with £75,000 up for grabs, is nearly three times more valuable.
He said: “It looks a nice race for her. She’s never been better, and I am expecting a good run.”
Has On The Road the stamina for this marathon test?
On The Road, winner of three of his six chases, got no further than the fourth fence when stepped up to this sort of trip for the first time in last Saturday’s Welsh Grand National.
His best winning form so far has been at distances less than three miles, but there is hope in his pedigree that he will stay and he brings the profile of an unexposed, progressive eight-year-old into the race.
Trainer Evan Williams said: “We like him. I think his inexperience told last week in the Welsh National, but we’re keen to try again. He’s very well.”
What they say
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Cogry and Ballycross
The worry with Cogry is testing ground. He’s a stayer who finished second in the Scottish National, so this race should suit him. Ballycross loves the ground and the distance. Everything appears to be in his favour.
Caroline Bailey, trainer of Crosspark
We’re going into unknown territory stamina-wise. I don’t see why the track wouldn’t suit him, he’s usually a good jumper and wasn’t quite right after his run at Newbury last month. He’s fine now. I’m pleased with him.
Venetia Williams, trainer of Emperor’s Choice
The ground has dried out a bit and slightly gone against us. He showed an unfortunate lack of concentration at Chepstow last Saturday when falling at the first in the Welsh Grand National, but has come out of that absolutely fine.
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