Flint hard enough for Warwick test

Steve Hughes heads to Warwick for their feature meeting of the year.

Some competitive jumping countrywide today, but Warwick stages its big card of the season, with the Classic Chase the highlight. There are plenty of good horses on show on the card, even if most of the top jockeys have gone elsewhere! Deansgate kept the winning run going last night (advised 8/1).

Warwick 12.40: Destined to Shine

A fairly lowly novice handicap, but Destined to Shine probably has more potential to improve than most.

A bumper winner last season, he was well fancied to win on his hurdling debut at Carlisle in the autumn. However he jumped out to his left on occasions which hampered his chances and he ultimately faded out of contention. He came here for his next start where he again tried to make all and was still going strong when getting rid of his rider.

Different tactics were employed at Wetherby last time in that he was held up, but he seemed to resent that and he never really got involved. It would be no surprise to see hi go back to front-running today on his handicap debut, especially with the insurance of a first time tongue-tie.

Warwick 1.50: Flintham

The last of the clan of great horses from the mare Plaid Maid, Flintham has not quite reached the heights of Coneygree and Carruthers as yet, but there is still time and this race could be made for him.

An out and out front-runner he won the Pertemps qualifier on this card two seasons ago, bravely holding off all-comers. He has not won since, but he has mainly been running on very undulating tracks, including Cheltenham three times, and I don’t think they suit him.

His stand out run over fences so far was in the Reynoldstown at Ascot last winter where he was caught on the post by Bigbadjohn. Had he not jumped regularly out to his left that day he would almost certainly have won and going left-handed today will help. However Ascot is more of a rhythm track which Flintham seemed to enjoy and in this small field there is every chance of him getting to the front early. He does have 16l to make up on Duel At Dawn from their Exeter run in November, but that rival came into the race with a recent outing under his belt and the winning margin was greatly exaggerated in the closing stages.

Warwick 2.25: No Hassle Hoff & The Organist

This race could set up for two proven stayers coming from off the pace and I have two against the field that fit that bill.

No Hassle Hoff is building up a consistent record in these big staying handicaps, most recently a fourth place in the Fixed Brush race at Haydock won by Sam Spinner. He already has a win under his belt at this marathon trip at Hereford and was placed in graded 3m hurdles at Doncaster and Cheltenham. A horse who can keep going off a strong gallop, this race arguably represents a slight drop in class from his more recent outings.

The Organist surely proved once and for all at Newbury last month that she is a thorough stayer who is best over hurdles. That win was only her second start at 3m and she was going away at the finish on that galloping track. Her initial venture over the distance also resulted in a win in a listed mares hurdle at Doncaster. A 6lb rise for her recent win is not overly harsh and a dryish week will have helped.

Warwick 3.35: Ballycross & Indian Castle

The application of headgear could prove important here – both my selections sport new accompaniments for the first time.

First choice selection is Ballycross who has shaped like he has a big staying prize in him for some time, but can lose his place in races early on. Therefore the cheekpieces for the first time should serve to sharpen him up early. There is no doubting his stamina – he was a fast finishing fourth over 3m at Chepstow last time. He was also placed over 3m2f over hurdles here as a youngster. I don’t think he likes the ground too soft – he was pulled up in this race last season on bad ground but was well backed here on good going in the autumn when a close third. Drying ground today should be an assistance.

Indian Castle is a horse I have been following for some time, so I don’t want to desert him now, especially with visors replacing cheekpieces for the big day and Robbie Dunne, a top pilot for these marathons on board. After a long injury layoff, he has returned win two solid runs at Cheltenham, but may well have been primed with this race in mind by local trainer Ian Williams. Off a mark of 127 he is thrown in on his best form (he was once 4th at the Cheltenham Festival off 12lbs higher).

Recommended bets:

0.75pts each-way – Destined to Shine – 12.40 Warwick – 10/1 Paddy Power, BetVictor

1.5pts win – Flintham – 1.50 Warwick – 9/2 Betfred, Totesport

1pt win – No Hassle Hoff – 2.25 Warwick – 6/1 general

1pt win – The Organist – 2.25 Warwick – 6/1 general

0.75pts each-way – Ballycross – 3.35 Warwick – 12/1 general

0.75pts each-way – Indian Castle – 3.35 Warwick – 8/1 Paddy Power, Boylesports, Stan James

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