It's a big day in the calendar for Warwick racecourse on Saturday as they stage the Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase, a Grade 3 marathon that can unveil pointers for the Grand National. The feature race is ably supported by the Wigley Group Hampton Novices' Chase and the Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle - both Grade 2s - on a quality card. Action at Warwick is from 12.40pm-4.05pm on Saturday and the Racing Post guides you dwn the finishing straight with their preview.
12.40 - Start Your RacingTV Free Trial Now Novices' Handicap Hurdle (2m)
Petrol Head turned in a vastly-improved effort in November when scoring at Fairyhouse (2m4f, yielding) on only his second start for the Ronan McNally yard. He was a cosy winner that afternoon and there could be more to come from him. That was off a mark of 87, however, and the UK assessor isn't taking any undue chances with him here.
Jumping served Greatest Star well as he got off the mark at the second attempt for Dan Skelton at Southwell in late November. That bare form isn't strong and more may be needed now switching to handicaps.
ORDER OF ST JOHN has taken a couple of steps in the right direction in finishing third at Ludlow and Southwell this winter and while an opening mark of 110 is perhaps a touch high, he'll have Archie Bellamy taking off 7lb and may give this a good sight from the front.
Selection: Order Of St John
Next Best: Greatest Star
1.18 - Alder Demain & Akers PMS Oxford Edward Courage Cup Handicap Chase (2m)
SKY PIRATE is 13lb higher than when taking this contest a year ago for Jonjo O'Neill but he's a reliable conveyance at this trip and might just have the quality to overcome conceding a stone and more to these three rivals.
He twice ran well behind progressive Before Midnight at Cheltenham and Ascot early this season before finishing ahead of that rival in a Grade 2 at Kempton last month won by Shishkin, with Tingle Creek winner Greaneteen the other one to beat him home. He should go close.
Brave Seasca is 2-3 over fences after scores over C&D and at Ascot in December. He had lots to spare in both instances and so even a 9lb hike in the ratings isn't certain to ground the Venetia Williams runner. He is a major threat to all concerned here.
Not Available has also won his last two at Newbury and Ludlow, in game fashion last time, but is now on a career-high mark and facing a tougher challenge.
Selection: Sky Pirate
Next Best: Brave Seasca
1.50 - Wigley Group Hampton Novices' Chase (Grade 2, 3m)
Paul Nicholls saddles Threeunderthrufive as the champion trainer looks to hold onto a prize won by Next Destination a year ago.
Threeunderthrufive hasn't done much wrong so far, winning three on the trot over fences after being turned over by Kim Bailey's Does He Know at Chepstow in October's chasing bow.
He won in this grade last month at Doncaster, beating two rivals over this trip, and is clear on ratings but he's already odds-on and the price doesn't appeal. He didn't always jump with conviction on Town Moor and, with a penalty to concede today, he may need to be sharper over the obstacles. He is, of course, the one to beat.
Any News and Doyen Breed need further improvement but are deemed capable of that, while Mossy Fen has been off for 14 months and now debuts for Christian Williams. He's only had starts over fences and has displayed promise and is in very good hands.
If the favourite is to be beaten, MINT CONDITION might be the one. He relished the stamina test when getting up late to win at Haydock (2m6f, heavy) late last month and should improve again. He gets 5lb from the jolly and if he does improve is entitled to give him a race.
Selection: Mint Condition
Next Best: Threeunderthrufive
2.25 - Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m5f)
Surrey Quest is 2-2 over hurdles for Nicky Henderson and sure to have more to come as he rises in class here. He just about sets the standard on paper, with Party Business not far behind.
Ian Williams' charge won an Ascot maiden over this trip in December on second hurdles start and was probably going to get placed in the Grade 1 Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas had he not come down at the second last. He's had 17 days to get over that mishap.
Dan Skelton's Viva Lavilla made a winning start at Lingfield in November and bumped into a smart winner in Lossiemouth at Sandown next time when well-held second. Stamina promises to be an asset for him and he has a solid chance of better now.
STAG HORN, meanwhile, was a classy stayer on the Flat for Archie Watson and this son of Golden Horn made every yard when winning at Hereford (2m3f, good) last month in a novice event on hurdles bow. The front two were well clear at the line and the runner-up, World Of Dreams, scored in a good style at Plumpton this month on his next start.
Gelded since, Stag Horn has plenty scope for improvement in this code and is worthy of his crack at this graded prize.
Selection: Stag Horn
Next Best: Viva Lavilla
3.00 - Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 3m5f)
Notachance won this race last year for Alan King but history is against him now, with no horse repeating in the near five-decade history of the Classic Chase. Second-best 12 months ago was Achille for Venetia Williams. Her string are thriving right now and this veteran was fourth in the Welsh National last time.
Top-weight Corach Rambler has won novice handicaps at Cheltenham and Aintree recently and was popular in the ante-post market for trainer Lucinda Russell - who pocketed this with One For Arthur en route to Aintree National glory in 2017. He's surely got more to come, though this is a tougher examination.
Gericault Roque has placed in all three chase starts for David Pipe and last month's Newbury run suggests stamina will be a forte for him. He, too, just lacks that extra bit of experience.
Padleyourowncanoe has run well here before over fences and made a pleasing return from more than a year off over hurdles at Haydock a month ago so the Skelton's will anticipate a good effort from him.
MINELLA ENCORE is quite low-miles for a 10YO and has won at Fakenham and Ludlow (3m1½f, good to soft) this season either side of a tame show in an amateur riders' event at Cheltenham in November.
He thrashed his rivals last time in first-time blinkers, retained here, and while he's 9lb higher in this classier contest now, it's going to be interesting to see what he can do tackling this extreme trip for the shrewd Dr Richard Newland and Sam Twiston-Davies partnership.
Selection: Minella Encore
Next Best: Corach Rambler
3.35 - Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (3m1f)
Off a mark of 158, Sire Du Berlais carries 11st 12lb here for Gordon Elliott and Tom Scudamore. The 2021 Cheltenham Festival Stayers' Hurdle runner-up was pulled up behind Klassical Dream and Flooring Porter over Christmas in Ireland but it might be wise not to place too much stock in that effort.
He could rebound, though Cheltenham in March might be his ultimate aim again.
The Sporting John that won at Cheltenham in November would be a huge danger to all, though he wasn't in the same form when only fourth back there last month.
The Jam Man has form at the trip but isn't especially well treated off 146 for Ronan McNally. ALAPHILIPPE won 3-4 over hurdles last season before a fair fifth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham over this trip. He has won off a break and needs monitoring for Fergal O'Brien and Paddy Brennan with this opening mark of 140 likely to prove within his reach.
Carrying just 10st, Riggs isn't dismissed for the Skelton team but he's up 5lb for chasing home Dans Le Vent at Haydock over this trip in November and has a career-high mark to contend with in taking on some useful opponents.
Next Best: Sporting John
4.05 - Racing TV Free For A Month 'Newcomers' NH Flat Race (2m)
A newcomer bumpers and so the betting will prove an essential guide with no form to rely on.
It could prove to be some good placement from Nicky Henderson as the filly LUCCIA gets plenty of weight being a 4YO filly taking on her elders/males. She's out of The Gurkha and should have no problems at this trip, while her 10st is further eased by Ben Ffrench-Davis claiming 7lb.
Fairly Famous, Blow Your Mind and What A Steal are three more that make some appeal on paper, with preference for Olly Murphy's runner as he does so well in this sphere.
Next Best: Fairly Famous