There will be no hiding place in Saturday’s feature Warwick Classic even though the £50,000 handicap chase is a marathon set to be run on heavy ground.
That is because recent Cheltenham winner Storm Control and last year’s runner-up Captain Chaos like nothing more than haring off and, in the case of Storm Control, proving uncatchable since sent over three miles or more this winter.
Trainer Kerry Lee is stepping up Storm Control nearly another half a mile to assess if he could develop into a Randox Health Grand National contender, who could follow the lead of One For Arthur, who won the Warwick race before Aintree success in 2017.
This week’s heavy rain is more of a concern to Lee, who trains on the Herefordshire/Wales border and has continued the family tradition of producing useful chasers since taking over from her father Richard six seasons ago.
“I’d like to run him to get a handle on his trip and there’s no reason not to think he would get the trip but we need to find out if he was to go to Aintree,” said Lee, who is one short of 100 career winners and won the Warwick Classic with her white knight Russe Blanc five years ago.
Storm Control showed in a good piece of work on Monday that he was ready to follow up his memorable Cheltenham Grade 3 chase success last month.
That Saturday success was notable for a suspenseful finish as Storm Control started to pull himself up when left clear at the last. If the ground is too testing, Lee has plenty of alternatives, naming the Skybet Chase at Doncaster, the Denman Chase of National Trial at Haydock as an alternative testing ground.
Captain Chaos has been backed into favouritism during the week to go one better than a year ago.
Eagle-eyed punters have picked up on Dan Skelton putting blinkers back on the 10-year-old, who is a creature of habit in showing little enthusiasm in his early races each season until woken up by headgear.
Skelton confirmed: “He always takes a few runs to get going and has a nice weight.”
Market Rasen holds an 8am inspection ahead of Saturday’s meeting because of a wintry weather forecast which adds to the angst of Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins as he tests the water for Irish runners crossing new customs borders since Brexit.
Mullins won the bumper on the card last year and returns with Grangee in the hottest race of the day, featuring four other unbeaten contenders including the Pam Sly-trained Eileendover, who was shading favouritism on Friday.
Lingfield (Monday) and Newcastle (Wednesday) lost their turf jumping fixtures next week to the wet weather but now hold all-weather cards with bumpers for jumpers.