Snow scuppers third Warwick jumps card

Warwick lost its third meeting of the jumps season when Thursday’s card was abandoned earlier today, writes David Hucker.

Prospects for Warwick had looked bleak after three days of snowfall and, with daytime temperatures forecast to rise to only 2-3°C, clerk of the course Sulekha Varma called an inspection for 11am this morning.

On her return, she announced that racing had been abandoned, adding: “The course is covered in 5-6in of snow and frozen in places underneath. There are no prospect of temperatures rising high enough for a thaw.”

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After the loss of more than a quarter of their programme due to bad weather last year, officials needed a good start to 2013 and had been buoyed by a large crowd and coverage on Channel 4 for the Betfred Classic Chase earlier this month.

But, this loss will be another bitter blow, with Varma tweeting: “After the highs of Classic Chase Day the team are down to earth with a bump. A bump cushioned slightly by thick snow however.”

The next meeting, again covered by Channel 4, will be on Saturday February 9 when the highlight of the seven-race card will be the Grade 2 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase (formerly called The Kingmaker Novices’ Chase) over two miles.

Past winners of the Kingmaker include Long Run, successful in 2010 before going on to beat Denman by seven lengths in the following year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Finian’s Rainbow, who took the 2011 running en route to scoring in last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.

One horse who could follow in their footsteps is the former French chaser Fago, who made a winning debut in this country at Newbury last week.

Purchased privately by owner Graham Wylie, who splits his string between Paul Nicholls in Britain and Willie Mullins in Ireland, Fago lived up to his high reputation with a smooth success.

Immediately after the race, Dan Skelton, assistant to Nicholls, nominated the Arkle Trophy or the Jewson Novices’ Chase as Fago’s Festival targets, with a run in the Kingmaker as a stepping stone.

Having assisted Nicholls for nine years, Skelton announced yesterday that he has decided to leave the champion trainer at the end of May to set up in his own right on his father Nick’s farm near Alcester, where he will be installing new stabling and a six-and-a-half furlong uphill all-weather gallop.