An early season highlight is always the Ladbrokes Trophy, the old Hennessy, at Newbury. It acts as the feature contest of the whole Ladbrokes Winter Carnival meeting. In the past, it has been won by the likes of Smad Place, Denman, Many Clouds, One Man and Teeton Mill. There are twenty four runners taking their chances for the £142,375 prize.
The current favourite is Ok Corral from the Nicky Henderson stable. He’s a second season novice and ran three times over fences last season, after coming second in the Albert Bartlett. He won at Plumpton in December, beating the subsequent Warwick Classic Chase winner, and he ran on that card as well. I was there and he put up a really good performance in the listed novices’ chase. Last time, he pulled up in the National Hunt Chase but that was a horrific race. He’s better than that.
The Nicky Henderson yard also have Brave Eagle, On The Blind Side and Beware The Bear. The former and the latter both have 11st10 to carry. Brave Eagle isn’t particularly exposed and he has a tremendous record, winning nine of his fourteen starts. He won at Haydock and Uttoxeter in the summer on good ground. He’s won on heavy but could prefer better ground. Beware The Bear loves Cheltenham. He won there in January and then in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival. He pulled up last time and makes his seasonal debut. He has a large weight. On The Blind Side kept very good company last year. He was behind Lostintranslation in January, pulled up in the RSA and then came second in a grade two hurdle. He came fourth at Ascot behind Vinndication, Regal Encore and Black Corton. He’s always been liked.
Henderson’s biggest training rival Paul Nicholls has Yala Enki. The horse will be having his first run for the stable as he previously was with Venetia Williams. A nine year old, Yala Enki is a proper classy handicapper. When last seen, he was seventh, one place behind Elegant Escape, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, beaten just 30 lengths. He goes on most grounds and always runs a game race. His old trainer has bottom weight Commodore. The seven year old won a decent contest at Sandown in March and has had a pipe opener in a chase at Bangor since. He only carries 10st1.
Regal Encore was third a couple of years ago and last time was a huge improvement from the run before. He followed in Borice in the Galway Plate. Borice goes in the double green of Simon Minor and Isaac Souede for Irish maestro Gordon Elliot. The horse hasn’t been seen since but won’t Perth and Uttoxeter before that. He’s only eight and has had wind surgery since. Willie Mullins has two horses as well. Cabaret Queen has Paul Townsend on board and this mare has ran just twice for Mullins as she used to be with Dan Skelton. She was second on her first start and then won over three miles on heavy ground easily at Limerick so will definitely stay. Their other runner is Yorkhill. The quirky chestnut won at the Galway Festival and was fourth in a grade two last time. He’s had his issues and it would be a fairytale for him to win.
Dan Skelton is represented here with Two Taffs. He’s a listed winner and so consistent. He ran at Wetherby on the back of a 735 day break and ran very well. This was behind The Worlds End and Unowhatimeanharry, who ran creditable races behind Paisley Park. He’s an interesting runner.
Colin Tizzard is a man in hot form right now. He won this race in 2016 with Native River, a subsequent Gold Cup winner, and Sizing Tennessee last year. Elegant Escape came second in that race, beating Dingo Dollar, Beware The Bear and stablemate West Approach. After that, this year’s top weight won this Welsh National in December; second at Cheltenham in January; sixth in the Gold Cup; sixth to Kemboy at Aintree and then, on seasonal debut, he came second to Ballyoptic in the Charlie Hall. He’s a ideal type for a race like this. Dingo Dollar was fancied for the race last year but is yet to put in a winning performance since. He was third over this course in a Pertemps Qualifier so he’s probably looking at a tilt in the National.
The next one if Tizzard’s to mention is West Approach. Thai horse is brother to the mighty Thistlecrack and he’s never lived up to his heights and, because of that, he’s disappointed many people. Robbie Power showed off cool-as-a-cucumber hold up techniques on this horse last time and they were successful at Cheltenham. He seems to be a horse who relishes passing horses and Robbie Power keeps the ride. The trainer-jockey combination are oh so hot at the minute. On seasonal reappearance, arguably, Power took him to the lead too soon allowing David Bridgewater’s The Conditional to overtake. The horse was brought from Ireland, where he won just once, and ran at Worcester in a novice chase, where he came third. Last time at Cheltenham, he didn’t jump the best at the second last but he battled on gamely. He’s a really lovely model of a horse and he enjoyed the trip. He likes a lot of cut. I fancy The Conditional to confirm the form with West Approach and come out on top!
Mister Malarky has Jonjo O’Neill Jr on board and Tizzard is increasingly using him. This horse was extremely progressive last season. He won a grade two at Ascot in February and came fourth in the RSA. He then came second in a grade three handicap on the back end of last season. He ran a very poor race in a grade three last time and that is a cause for concern. Robinsfirth is ten but has ran thirteen times to date. He won a grade three in December 2017 and hadn’t been seen untilcoming second to Wakanda in the Peter Marsh. Last season, in February, he won the Grand National Trial and the form has been franked. Sean Bowen keeps the ride.
Neil Mulholland has two big priced runners. Shantou Village unseated when traveling well at Listowel in the Kerry National in September. He’s got more letters by his name that numbers lately. Watt dropped to an easier mark and won at Taunton by a neck earlier in the month. He remains on an unchanged mark. David Pipe has Daklondike, who was in great form in 2017 but has, again, had a lot of letters next to his name recently. Last December, he did win at Haydock in the Tommy Whittle.
Female trainers Emma Lavelle and Rebecca Curtis have one runner each. Emma Lavelle has already been in the winners enclosure at this meeting with Paisley Park on day one. De Rasher Counter was seen schooling here a few weeks ago and she jocks up Ben Jones to ride the horse. The young rider claims 5lbs and is great value. The horse won in March and was sixth over hurdles on his reappearance. He’ll be better for it. Rebecca Curtis’s yard is doing well and she has Joe Farrell. He won the Scottish National in 2018 and then didn’t run until coming sixth and second in March. After that, he pulled up in the National and at Sandown. He was third in a strong race, beating Regal Encore, and is a good horse on his day.
Le Musee ran well over the summer and won at Perth in September. At that track, he was pulled up behind Soupy Soups over a little bit shorter than this. Some Chaos completed a double at the start of the year and was fourth behind Ramese De Teillee I’ve hurdles on seasonal reappearance.
In conclusion, I am going with THE CONDITIONAL. I was extremely taken with him at Cheltenham on the last time he ran. On Friday, he was about 20/1 which is so ridiculous! He’s definitely worth a bit each way! Also, Borice could run a big race as I think the wind op will benefit him massively. Two Taffs is very interesting and you can’t discount the Willie Mullins mare Cabaret Queen.
Rest Of The Team’s Selections
Lois – Elegant Escape
Luke – Elegant Escape
Niamh – The Conditional
Rest Of The Card
This mare ran into Silver Forever at this course last time but the grey is penalized so I prefer Floressa.
12:40- Reserve Tank
Only three horses run in this race and Reserve Tank completely out-classes them. If he can stay on his feet, it should hopefully be an easy win.
This horse was a decent novice last term and came third in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.
13:50- Star Of Lanka
He won twice around this time last year and ran in good company after that. He was a good second last time and promising claimer Ben Jones rides.
14:25- Elvis Mail
Apparently this horse is well thought of and he’s only a five year old so is open to more improvement. He ran very smartly last time.
15:00- The Conditional, Borice & Two Taffs
I’ve always liked this horse. He’s won over fences before and he ran creditably last time behind Hell’s Kitchen.