Dan Skelton has been setting a scorching pace at the top of the trainers’ table and he was on the mark again when Abidjan, who had run with promise over the course on his third start for the stable last month, landed the feature £30,000 Wigley Group Carnival Handicap Chase.
Formerly trained by Skelton’s mentor, Paul Nicholls, Abidjan had struggled since winning at Newton Abbot a year ago, but showed that a return to form was on the cards when chasing home Doitforthevillage last time out. He proved far too good for his rivals here, leading three fences from home and putting 18 lengths between himself and his nearest pursuer Artifice Sivola.
In keeping with the theme for the day, the opening William Eboral Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and three furlongs was named after the earliest-known clerk of the course and it went to Talkischeap, who maintained jockey Wayne Hutchinson’s good run of form.
This was Hutchinson’s eighth winner, at a strike rate of 35%, in just over three weeks of the new season, but his mount had to dig deep after a mistake at the penultimate flight, although he was always holding the hard-pulling Blairs Cove, who was looking to follow up his win at the course earlier in the month.
The meeting was the final round in Jockey Club Racecourses’ newly-instituted awards, The McCoys, based on races run across the four courses, including Warwick, that comprise its south west region.
Noel Fehily came into day on 28 winners, just two ahead of Richard Johnson, and he clinched the jockeys’ award when taking the Close Brothers Business Finance Coronation Handicap Hurdle, named after the winner of the Warwick Derby Trial Stakes and Epsom Derby of 1841, on Rossetti, who loves this time of the year.
This was his 14th win in all, including a clutch at Les Landes in Jersey where he was trained before moving to Neil Mulholland. Having led at the last flight down the back straight, Rossetti had to be driven out to beat Burning Heat by half a length, with Red Tornado a further seven-lengths back in third.
Paul Nicholls was well ahead in the race for the top trainer award for stables with 40 horses or more, having sent out 48 winners across the four racecourses. He nearly added to that total in the Close Brothers Business Finance Birmingham Novices’ Handicap Chase, but his Red Hanrahan, who had gone clear at the penultimate fence, idled on the run-in and was passed by 5-2 favourite Midnight Cowboy, who completed a double for jockey Hutchinson and trainer Alan King.
At three miles and one furlong, the Feldon Dunsmore Building Legal Solutions Carnival Handicap Hurdle was the longest race of the afternoon and it went to Big Easy and Richard Johnson, who ran on well on the flat to deny the Skelton-trained Rene’s Girl by two lengths.
Just three lined up for the three-mile Close Brothers Business Finance Chandler Handicap Chase and, with Timon’s Tara pulling up, Bronco Billy coasted home from Florida Calling to take trainer Jonjo O’Neill to within a whisker of £100,000 in prize money for the season and give Fehily a riding double on the day.
Harry Cobden had the conditional rider accolade sewn up, having clocked up 22 winners, with a big gap back to his nearest rivals Stan Sheppard and Lizzie Kelly on five apiece. He rode the fancied Mon Port in the concluding National Hunt Flat Race and they made all the running, being in splendid isolation for the last half mile and coming home 55 lengths clear of the rest.