The £32,000 totepool Towton Novices’ Chase is the highlight of Wetherby’s programme on Saturday 4th February, totepool Medieval Raceday.
First staged in 1996, when the three-mile contest was won by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Mr Mulligan, the Grade 2 race has an eye-catching roll of honour with the previous victors including Keen Leader, Ollie Magern, Halcon Genelardais and Wayward Prince.
Last year’s renewal went to Blaklion, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who went on to win the Grade 1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on his next start.
The Wetherby chase is named in honour of the Battle of Towton, fought just 10 miles from the racecourse in 1461 during the War of the Roses.
This year’s entries are headed by Calett Mad (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who has won two of his three starts impressively since arriving from France.
The victories came in handicaps at Taunton on 11th January and Newcastle on 26th November. The five-year-old, a half-brother to the very useful chaser Ar Mad, was runner-up to Fox Appeal on his only other British start in a handicap chase at Ludlow in December.
Calett Mad is owned by Simon Munir & Isaac Souede and Anthony Bromley, racing manager to the duo, revealed: “Calett Mad is an intended runner in totepool Towton Novices’ Chase.
“He is also entered in the Scilly Isles at Sandown but the owners have Top Notch in that race and the plan is go to Wetherby with Calett Mad.
“He has entries in the RSA and the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March and hopefully Wetherby can give us a springboard to that.
“His run on Saturday should tell us whether we are at that level or whether we need to look at handicaps.
“Calett Mad is a nice prospect and is going the right way. His handicap mark is quite high (148), so we thought we would come back to novice company and use the experience he has gained in handicaps.
“It will be interesting to see how he gets on and where we are with him.”
Another leading contender for the totepool Towton Novices’ Chase is Rock The Kasbah (Philip Hobbs), runner-up in a G2 contest over two miles and five furlongs at Ascot shortly before Christmas.
Trainer Dan Skelton has a pair of entries, headed by Value At Risk, a G2-winning hurdler who got off the mark over fences when last seen out at Bangor in October. His second entry is Captain Chaos, a close third in a Listed contest at Warwick on 14th January.
Kaki De La Pree (Tom Symonds) is in the unusual position of having run in the totepool Towton Novices’ Chase previously, finishing the neck runner-up to Ned Stark in 2015.
On the sidelines for most of last season, the 10-year-old scored at Worcester in June but got no further than the second fence when last seen out in the G3 Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick on 14th January.
Also engaged are Delusionsofgrandeur (Sue Smith), an impressive winner of a beginners’ chase at Catterick last month, and The Dutchman (Sandy Thomson), who was a staying-on second last time out at Wetherby on 27th December in a novices’ chase over an extended two miles and three furlongs.
Completing the 10 entries are Missed Approach (Warren Greatrex), a six-length winner at Lingfield on 10th January, Kris Spin (Kerry Lee) and Baywing (Nicky Richards).
In celebration of the theme ‘The Knights In Battle’, a medieval re-enactment group who specialise in bringing medieval history to life, will be present at Wetherby. ‘The Knights in Battle’ can be seen by racegoers at their authentic Medieval Camp within the paddock.
Racegoers will have the chance to handle medieval weapons and armour, see how a battle camp kitchen is run and watch a couple of master craftsmen at work. ‘The Knights In Battle’ will also be providing a variety of battle re-enactment demonstrations throughout the day.
Other attractions include SMJ Falconry, who will have a variety of birds of prey on display for racegoers to look at and handle. The crowd can also enjoy the sound of 1461, with musicians playing music on fully authentic medieval instruments.