Mike Vince looks ahead to the televised coverage from Market Rasen and Warwick this weekend, with the Classic Chase taking centre stage.
It was back in 2014 that the Jockey Club decided to end flat racing at Warwick and concentrate on jumping and they immediately made this Saturday’s Classic Chase the centrepiece of its showpiece programme.
Since then the standard and quality of the racing has continued to rise, while the same is most certainly true of Market Rasen, with whom they share ITV coverage this weekend.
Warwick’s marathon chase is over 22 fences, a run of five down the side of the course before the home turn providing a real test, and this for a race whose profile has done nothing but build.
The new race replaced the Brooke Bod Oxo National, originally run over four miles-plus and is one of the few the great AP McCoy never won, but in 2017 the race got just the boost it needed when One For Arthur made the long journey down from Lucinda Russell’s yard, won by six lengths from Goodtoknowyou with the 2014 hero Shotgun Paddy third, and then headed to Aintree for an unforgettable Grand National triumph.
A year later it was Bryony Frost on Milansbar at 12/1 who went on to finish fifth in the National and after the 2019 renewal in which Sam Waley-Cohen went on starvation rations to strike on Impulsive Star carrying 9-12, Kimberlite Candy took the honours a year ago and would have been one of the favourites had there been a National to follow.
Market Rasen is best known these days for the highlight of the summer - the Summer Plate in July having for many years been a track that raced every month of the year - but the quality of its programme has risen in recent years. Officials watched Nube Negra verus Altior at Kempton at the back end of last month with big smiles as both horses had made winning debuts at the Lincolnshire track.
In the past decade they have added a Listed Mares' Chase, run in November to their schedule, and Saturday sees the fourth running of the Listed Mares' Bumper named in honour of Alan Swinbank, a regular journeyman to the course, often for a bumper from his North Yorkshire base.
It’s widely seen as a good track for a novice or bumper horse, with two long straights and few undulations, and that was not lost on Willie Mullins who a year ago sent his first ever runner in the shape of Panic Attack, who spread-eagled her field and went on to run in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Festival, albeit for new connections.
The two tracks may not be as well known as many shown on terrestrial TV, but having them in the spotlight ensures one thing - variety will be the name of the game for punters this weekend.