LINGFIELD: 12.50 Estacas, 1.20 Fameaftertheglory, 1.50 Faivoir, 2.25 Darver Star, 3.00 BRISTOL DE MAI (NAP), 3.35 Laskalin, 4.08 Nothin To Ask.
THURLES: 1.00 Pinkerton, 1.30 Gerri Colombe, 2.05 Aarons Day, 2.40 Jeremys Flame, 3.15 Allaho, 3.45 Soldier At War, 4.15 Billaway.
WARWICK: 1.10 Saint Segal, 1.40 Fearless, 2.15 Gaia Du Gouet, 2.50 Lydford, 3.25 Dhowin, 4.00 Moratorium.
DOUBLE: Estacas and Bristol De Mai.
Bristol De Mai appears to have everything in his favour in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield.
With a total prize fund of £150,000 up for grabs, it is no surprise a strong field has assembled for the feature event on the third and final day of the inaugural Winter Million.
Connections of Bristol De Mai have rightly had their eyes on this prize for a while with the proven mud-lover given conditions at Lingfield in mid-January are rarely anything but heavy.
The 11-year-old is forgiven a disappointing effort in his bid for a fourth Betfair Chase victory at Haydock in November when the ground was unseasonably good and is better judged on his record on heavy, which reads four wins from six starts.
The popular grey is very much in the twilight of his career and is almost certainly not the force he once was, but make no mistake – this is his Gold Cup this season and he will have been trained to the minute.
Even though the trip of two miles and six furlongs is on the short side, this race will not be for the faint-hearted and Bristol De Mai could well gallop his rivals into submission once more.
It will be fascinating to see if German raider Estacas can double his tally on British soil in the opening Winter Million Open National Hunt Flat Race.
The son of Galileo was favourite to make a winning debut for Andreas Wohler at Ascot in October and did so in some style.
The second (Chianti Classico) and fourth (Firestream) at Ascot have both won impressively since and Estacas is expected to win again to earn himself a tilt at Champion Bumper glory in March.
The Gavin Cromwell-trained Fameaftertheglory can make make it third time lucky over obstacles in the Winter Million Novices’ Hurdle.
The six-year-old won a Wexford bumper on heavy ground in the autumn and has filled the runner-up spot in his first two hurdle starts. He should prove hard to beat.
Cromwell will also have high hopes for Darver Star in the £100,000 Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Hurdle.
Narrowly beaten by the great Honeysuckle in the 2020 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, the Kalanisi gelding went on to finish third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham the following month.
Either of those efforts would surely be good enough to win this weekend, but clearly plenty of water has passed under the bridge during the intervening period.
However, following a largely disappointing spell over fences, he successfully reverted to the smaller obstacles with a 20-length demolition job at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.
That should have served as a timely confidence booster for another horse for whom conditions will hold no fears whatsoever.
Dan Skelton and Bridget Andrews are likely to be among the winners at Warwick, with Gaia Du Gouet and Lydford both of clear interest.
Gaia Du Gouet was bought for £85,000 after winning an Irish point-to-point and dotted up on her Rules debut at Uttoxeter in November. She can double up in the Ian Duckham’s 70th Birthday Celebration Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle before going in search of black type.
Lydford suffered an odds-on defeat at the hands of fellow high-class Flat performer Zabeel Champion on his hurdling bow at Leicester, but has since put that right with successive victories.
A hat-trick could be in the offing in the Try Racing TV For Free Now Handicap Hurdle, with his opening mark of 126 very workable for a horse who achieved a rating of 92 on the level
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