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The executive at Warwick racecourse has done brilliantly to make its mid- January meeting a calendar highlight. Saturday's card is exceptional with Cheltenham Gold Cup, Grand National and Supreme Novices' Hurdle pretenders on parade. The horse that will be watched with the greatest sense of anticipation is Strong Flow. He is prominent in the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase but returns today in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at 2:05 after last running on Boxing day 2003. He is not a betting proposition in this race but he is worth watching. If he is as good as he was when he destroyed the 2003 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Chase field by 16 lengths in 2003 he is a live Cheltenham contender.
Warwick's feature is the £115,000 Totesport Classic Handicap Chase. To win this in the mud over 3m 5f will take stamina and guts in equal measure. Grattan Lodge is favourite. He has won two average Carlisle handicaps but the form of his last victory looks solid, with second home Malek running a blinder since in listed company at Wetherby. Wain Mountain has a similar level of form to Grattan Lodge. But, even at the age of nine, Historic could be a blot on the handicap. It has taken a while for him to get the hang of fences, so he is still 15lbs to the good in chases compared with his best rating over hurdles. His decent each-way price reflects form that suggests he is better on right-hand courses and in small fields. If he wins or places here a run in the Grand National is on the cards.
At Kempton the big race is a typically wide-open renewal of the Lanzarote Hurdle. Royal Hector has the profile of a Martin Pipe- trained 'good thing' but he has gone up 27lbs in the handicap for his last two wins. Green Tango won in this class at Newbury in November and has the pace to be suited by this flat track. At double-digit odds he is each-way value.
3:10 Warwick - Historic (each-way)
3:25 Kempton - Green Tango (each-way)