Hawke hoping for Royale day on St James’s Place Christmas Raceday at Newbury tomorrow

Newbury Racecourse stages its penultimate fixture of 2018 tomorrow, Wednesday, December 19, St James’s Place Christmas Raceday. The seven-race programme runs from 12.30pm through to 3.45pm.

Mares take centre stage, with the most valuable contest of the afternoon being the £27,500 Listed Thoroughbred Breeders Association Mares’ Chase (2.15pm) over just short of three miles.

The Nigel Hawke-trained Pearl Royale, who will be ridden by Danny Cook, made a stylish return to action when making all under the same rider to land a Listed contest at Carlisle over two miles and four furlongs by six lengths on December 2. This is just her 10th start and further improvement can be expected.

The six-year-old daughter of Robin Des Champs was a facile 11-length victor on her chasing debut at Wincanton on Boxing Day in 2017, before falling in the G2 Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby over three miles in February, 2018.

Devon-based Hawke said: “Pearl Royale came out of Carlisle in really good form and won that race very comfortably.

“She did it the hard way at Carlisle, making all over that trip in very soft ground and she did it well.

“Pearl Royale switched off very well and she is a horse who likes soft ground.

“It was a good performance and she jumped very well, so we’re looking forward to watching her perform again.

“This looks a good mares’ Listed race and hopefully she runs well. She is a second-season chaser and she is exciting.”

With a BHA rating of 141, Pearl Royale is second top-rated in tomorrow’s contest, behind the 147-rated Drinks Interval (Colin Tizzard/Richard Johnson), a winner of three of her five chases.

There is an Irish-trained challenger in Magic Of Light (Jessica Harrington/Robbie Power), successful in a valuable mares’ handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival in April and an excellent third in the very competitive Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan last month.

Completing tomorrow’s line-up are Molly The Dolly (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton), who is two from two over fences this season with victories at Aintree and Uttoxeter, and Two Smokin Barrels (Michael Scudamore/Ben Poste).

There could be several future stars on show in the six supporting races, particularly in the Qolcom EBF Stallions “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (2.45pm, 14 runners) over an extended two and a half miles, which has been won by the likes of Uxizandre and Mr Whipped in recent years.

The unbeaten Emitom (Warren Greatrex/Gavin Sheehan) takes on two highly-regarded Irish recruits from the Nicky Henderson stable in Downtown Getaway(Nico de Boinville) and Beyondthestorm (Jeremiah McGrath), who were knocked down for £350,000 and £150,000 respectively at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham sale in December, 2017.

Further depth is added by hurdle scorers Samarquand (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily), Tidal Flow (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson) and Moonlighter (Jane Williams/Lizzie Kelly), plus Aintree G2 bumper third Harambe (Alan King/Tom Bellamy).

A maximum field of 22 go to post in the Equine Productions Maiden Hurdle (1.05pm) over an extended two miles. Dashel Drasher (Jeremy Scott/Matt Griffiths) sets the standard of those with experience under Rules after finishing third behind Bright Forecast in the Ladbrokes “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle on day one of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.

Owner J P McManus has a trio of runners including two promising Irish point-to-point graduates in Gameface (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily), who was knocked down for £145,000 at Goffs in May, and Rathhill (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty).

Britain’s champion owner also has the exciting Style De Vole (Nicky Henderson/Barry Geraghty) going for his second success over hurdles in the opening St. James’s Place Juvenile Hurdle (seven runners) at 12.30pm. A winner on the Flat in France, Style De Vole scored on his hurdling debut at Newcastle on December 1.

The action is completed by the Prodec Networks Chase (1.40pm, 11 runners), a novices’ handicap chase over just short of three miles, the Powersolve Electronics Greatwood Charity Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (3.15pm, eight runners) over an extended two miles and the concluding St. James’s Place Fillies’ “Junior” Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (13 runners) at 3.45pm.

Latest Going

The ground at Newbury is currently

Hurdle Course: Soft, Good to Soft in places

Chase Course: Good to Soft, Soft in places

The last 24 hours has been dry.

The forecast is for rain today while tomorrow should be mainly dry, with a risk of showers in the afternoon.

Newbury’s final fixture of 2018 is Betway Challow Hurdle Day, which takes place on Saturday, December 29, featuring Newbury’s only G1 Jump race, the £45,000 Betway Challow Hurdle.