The premier handicap chase of the season takes place every year at Newbury in early December. After decades of being called the Hennessy, the owners of that brand thought there was no longer any point paying for naming rights of a name which will stick with most people for at least another generation. A shame, but entirely understandable especially if the new owners have little appetite for racing (assumption).
I've only been to this meeting once, and it's the one most judges class as the best in recent memory - when the mighty Denman won carrying top weight in 2009. Being an Aussie with a strong appetite for top class handicap racing rather than small fields and set weights, I love seeing a champion take on the challenge of conceding weight to the field, and even more so when connections are rewarded for doing so.
Preview rights to this mighty race have been claimed by the sharp-eyed Kiaran O'Brien. Enjoy.
Ladbrokes Trophy Chase
£250,000,Grade 3 Handicap, 3m2f
1500 GMT, 0400 AEDT
Ladbrokes Trophy Chase
£250,000,Grade 3 Handicap, 3m2f
1500 GMT, 0400 AEDT
Will there be a more popular winner in the field than this fragile 10yo?
Only did a circuit in the Charlie Hall on his seasonal reappearance where the low sun in the back straight was blamed for some uncharacteristic jumping mistakes. The 2015 Gold Cup winner has only been seen on a race course four times since his memorable victory and if you are willing to put a line through his Wetherby run then for me he is still a major player off top-weight. His third place behind Sizing John at Punchestown in April is the best form in the book.
His half-brother Carruthers claimed this prestigious handicap in 2011 for the Bradstock stable.
(solid each way chance)
His initial chasing campaign was aborted at the start of 2015 after defeat at Exeter which meant he was able to retain his novice status last season. Yet to finish out of the first two over the larger obstacles he is, in my eyes, burdened with an awful lot of weight for what he has achieved. Yes he did finish only a nose behind Might Bite at Cheltenham last March but that was after the enigmatic stablemate had stopped off after the last for afternoon tea and a wash down !!
He won a two-runner Graduation Chase on his seasonal reappearance at Kempton with the runner-up winning easily next time.
Trainer has an excellent record in the race but one I am happy to pass over.
One of the more fanciable types and this strapping seven-year-old is unbeaten over fences after three races. This race has always been the target after bypassing both Cheltenham and Aintree in the Spring. The right underfoot conditions are paramount to his chances and he is sure to get them on Saturday.
If you want to pick holes in his form you could argue he hasn’t beaten anything of note and those he has beaten haven’t exactly set the world alight. That said, you can only beat what is put up against you and he has done so impressively each time.
Can see him being in the shake up.
4. CAROLE’S DESTRIER
The Neil Mulholland-trained gelding was a gallant runner-up behind the well-handicapped Native River twelve months ago and subsequently chased the same rival home in the Welsh National a month later. It is a concern that he hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since and he has never won first time out.
Set to carry seven pounds more this time around I can see him struggling to make an impact
5. LABEL DES OBEAUX
Can’t find many positives for this one except that his handler knows what it takes to win the race having landed the prize with Smad Place in 2015.
Still only a six-year-old so improvement can be expected but his jumping has never been the most convincing so another who I think will struggle.
6. A GENIE IN ABOTTLE
Has come in for plenty of support in the last week with his price now as short as 8/1 in places.
The Irish raiders have a dreadful history in the race. Apart from Be My Royal in 2002 (subsequently disqualified) the last victor from the Emerald Isle was Bright Highway in 1980. For those old enough to remember that was the same season Aldaniti won the Grand National!
He is two from two over fences this season and a closer inspection of his form gives him an outstanding chance. The victory of Mala Beach in the Troytown last Sunday has only enhanced his credentials and his handler Noel Meade has made a fantastic start to the season so two more boxes ticked.
Can see him running a big race.
7. REGAL ENCORE
Has more letters in his form lines than numbers so easily dismissed from calculations.
8. ROYAL VACATION
From the all-conquering Colin Tizzard yard Royal Vacation was twice a big-race winner last winter as a novice. Some would argue that he was fortunate on both occasions. His victory in the Kauto Star Chase at Kempton at Christmas was definitely lucky as Might Bite came down at the last whilst well clear. In his next victory at Cheltenham on Festival Trials day he capitalised on the misfortune of others who were brought down when challenging.
The owner's Theatre Guide ran into a place at big odds in 2013 and 2015. He may struggle to emulate this.
9. PLEASANT COMPANY
One of two runners in the race for the brilliant Willie Mullins who will be looking to eventually claim this big prize which has eluded him.
This nine-year-old was last seen chasing home One For Arthur at Aintree in the Grand National and did not go off unsupported either. He has a very nice racing weight of 10st 9lbs, but the betting would clearly suggest he is Mullins’ second string behind Total Recall.
Will be staying on when others have cried enough.
10. TOTAL RECALL
Has been ante-post favourite for this race ever since making a successful seasonal reappearance at Limerick at the start of October.
Formerly in the hands of Sandra Hughes but now with Willie Mullins, he turned what looked like a competitive Munster National (also sponsored by Ladbrokes) into a procession, scoring by an impressive seven lengths off an Official Rating of 129. He is now off 147.
As stated previously the Irish have an appalling record in this race and at 5/1 generally I would have to say he is too short for me. The same connections backed another former Sandra Hughes inmate Acapella Bourgeois as if defeat was out of the question in the Troytown last weekend and he failed to get around.
Total Recall could be a handicap snip but we won’t know until the race is over.
One for the short-list and is priced accordingly. Now a stone higher in the weights than his last victory at Cheltenham last December, Singlefarmpayment ran well on his seasonal reappearance last month and only found the rejuvenated Cogry too good.
The one negative I can find is that for a horse of his ability he doesn’t win that often so could be vulnerable to better handicapped rivals.
Could run into a place.
12. DOUBLE ROSS
I have been a major fan of this horse for many years and he ran an absolute cracker to finish third last season behind Native River.
Now deemed a veteran, he represents a yard who are absolutely flying at present and will be ridden by a jockey still smiling from his recent victory on Splash Of Ginge in the BetVictor Chase. Does have the tendency to clout the odd fence and was an early casualty on his last start at Sandown.
Is sure to run a big race but may struggle to be competitive.
13. PRESENT MAN
The presence of jockey of the moment Bryony Frost on his back will ensure this recent winner of the Badger Beer at Wincanton will receive plenty of vocal support. Not from me.
In a career that has spanned 16 races over hurdles and fences, connections have only ever ONCE sent the gelding to a left-handed track like Newbury. On that one occasion he ran at Doncaster in a four-runner novice chase and jumped markedly out to his right. Yes, he won the race, that can’t be argued. Not sure he’d get away with it in such a competitive handicap.
Place lay for me purely on course concerns.
14. MISSED APPROACH
Can’t jump so easily overlooked.
Winner of the prestigious Reynoldstown Chase as a novice at Ascot, he has shown nothing in three subsequent starts to suggest he can mix it with his rivals today.
16. VYTA DU ROC
The second of the Nicky Henderson runners. A staying-on sixth in this last year and is three pounds lower in the handicap this time around. Has been nibbled at in the market this week and his owners Munir and Souede have been firing in winners all over the place in the last fortnight.
I have never been convinced by his jumping or resolution, but he has been competing at the top level for some time now. Made an encouraging seasonal reappearance over hurdles at Aintree last month which will have brought him on.
Could run into a place.
17. BRAQUEUR D’OR
Has been on the go all summer and this will be his tenth run since May when he joined champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
Wasn’t disgraced behind Go Conquer on his last start at Ascot but this maybe a step too far having on the improved by thirty pounds already this campaign.
This time last season you would have struggled to have found a jockey who would want to sit on Cogry let alone expect him to be running in the Ladbroke. Form lines of FBUF1P had seen a couple of jockeys on the long-term injury list.
Things however have turned around markedly with a narrow defeat in the Scottish National being the highlight last season. This season the improvement has continued, and he was a game winner on his reappearance from Singlefarmpayment at Cheltenham and there is every reason to believe the progression has stopped yet.
Cogry, should he get into a rhythm early could be a major player. He is one horse, along with Pleasant Company, who will still be staying on at the end.
19. POTTERS LEGEND
Difficult to make a case for Lucy Wadham’s runner despite him only being out of the first four once in sixteen career starts. He is being fitted with blinkers for the first time Saturday and that will need to improve him markedly. One pound out of the handicap.
20. SOUTHFIELD ROYALE
Didn’t go unsupported on his seasonal reappearance in the Badger Beer Chase last month and was sent off favourite for the Scottish National in the spring so has plenty to find on the book with Cogry. He has been beaten over 200 lengths in his last four completed starts and his last victory was almost two years ago. Another who is a pound out of the handicap.
21. PILGRIMS BAY
I almost ignored Pilgrims Bay but two or three subsequent looks have made me reassess his chances.
A winner of the Betbright Chase at Kempton back in February under one of the best rides you would have seen last season, the seven-year-old was given a gentle reintroduction in the Badger Beer. Held up with exaggerated waiting tactics on the opening circuit he made eye-catching headway to go into fourth jumping the second last before getting tired in the tacky ground, eventually finishing sixth.
Although he is two pounds out of the official handicap due to the presence of Coneygree at 11st 12lbs, there can’t be many previous winners of the Betbright Chase who would get into this race off bottom weight.
His trainer Neil Mulholland was second with Carole’s Destrier last season knows what is needed to get a horse ready for this and there are worse 40/1 shots out there.
With a strong pace almost guaranteed the exaggerated waiting tactics could play into his hands as long as he doesn’t get himself too far detached.
1. Pilgrims Bay
2. A Genie In Abottle
4. Pleasant Company