Today’s feature race The Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury has been won by some of the chasing greats with Arkle, Mill House, Denman and the ill-fated Grand National winner Many Clouds among its roll of honour. Strong Flow (2003) will always be my personal favourite although he never quite fulfilled his potential having cracked a bone in his knee when winning the Grade 1 Feltham Chase at Kempton on his next start on Boxing Day.
I am loath to desert West Approach who did us such a favour when scoring at Cheltenham on BetVictor Gold Cup day but he had a hard race on that occasion and my two against the field are Mister Malarky and De Rasher Counter (3.00) with marginal preference for the latter who is 10/1 at BetVictor and gets the each way vote – five places.
The selection carried 11st 12lbs to victory in a valuable novices’ handicap chase at Uttoxeter back in the spring, and both the second and third are subsequent winners. He is 9lbs higher today but leading conditional Ben Jones takes off a valuable 5lbs and the pair got to know each other in a spin over timber back at the Staffordshire track last month.
Jonjo O’Neill rides Mister Malarky (9/1 at BetVictor) who is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time and he is entitled to come on for his Ascot reappearance. He strikes me as a Grand National horse going forward but he looks sure to run a big race. It was a poor renewal of the great race in 2018 – no such sentiments this year. This is a cracking race.
This will be the softest ground that Floressa (12.05) has raced on which is a slight concern, but she is taken to reverse recent C&D form with Silver Forever on 3lbs better terms for the short head she was behind that rival. The excellent Gavin Cromwell brings Jeremys Flame across the Irish Sea and she has won two of her three hurdle starts. It will be fascinating to see what the market makes of her chance.
I am quite keen to take on likely odds on favourite Reserve Tank in the near 3m novice chase although I feel the Tizzard’s dual Grade 1 winning hurdler will be better served by Newbury than was the case at Wincanton last time. Note the stable have won the corresponding race three times in the last four years.
Danny Whizzbang (12.40) won both hurdles last season for Paul Nicholls but has the potential to be a better chaser and he receives 5lbs from the likely favourite. The selection made all at Exeter back in February and I hope Harry Cobden ensures that Reserve Tank will need to stay every yard of this trip.
Despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs I feel Jerrysback could be well treated in the 2m 6f handicap chase but the each way vote goes to Westend Story (1.15) who drifted like a barge and ran as if in need of his comeback when beaten more than 20L at Uttoxeter last month. The selection runs in the colours of the Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club and members have been known to have a tilt at the ring.
In the Gerry Feilden Handicap hurdle my two against the field are Nick Alexander’s Elvis Mail – who makes the long journey south from Kinneston in Scotland – and Henderson’s Epatante (2.25) with the latter getting the vote. The selection couldn’t cope with the hurly-burly and undulations of Cheltenham in the mares’ novices’ hurdle back in the spring – went off favourite – and at 4/1 with BetVictor I would be disappointed if she didn’t run a big race.
Newcastle must pass an 8am inspection this morning. If the meeting gets the green light, I hope to see Imperial Alcazar (12.55) follow up his recent Aintree success in “The French Furze” Novices’ hurdle for Paddy Brennan and Fergal O’Brien.
Buveur D’Air cannot be opposed in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth while I hope to see Lemon T (2.40) run a big race on his hurdles debut for Ruth Jefferson. The selection made all to win a Bumper here last term and the grey may have most to fear from Sue Smith’s Rare Clouds who will appreciate the return to the minimum trip.
At Bangor I expect Jelski (2.30) to break his maiden tag for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies having shaped with promise when third in a better race than this – behind his stablemate – at Aintree last time.
There are three Grade 1’s at Fairyhouse on Sunday and Festival Bumper winner Envoi Allen is sure to be a warm order to make it two out of two over hurdles for Gordon Elliot in the Royal Bond.
He won’t have it all his own way, however, and Midnight Run (1.00) gets the each way vote for Joseph O’Brien and Rachel Blackmore. The selection was beaten over 4L by Envoi Allen in a Bumper last season, but that was his sole reverse in four starts and he looked very good at Cork on his hurdles debut.