Our racing expert gives his verdict on Saturday's Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (due off 3.00pm).
The Hennessy Gold Cup is no more and the Ladbrokes Trophy won’t sound right for a while yet, but a sponsorship change doesn’t make Saturday’s 3m2f contest at Newbury any less exciting and we’ve got a cracking renewal in store.
A total of 21 horses have been declared and there is not a plodder amongst them, albeit some are harder to fancy on what they’ve shown on more recent starts. Around half of them are priced at 20/1 or bigger and while I’m going to make a case for backing a 33/1 shot to each-way money further down the page, it’s probably best to concentrate on those at the head of the market given that eight of the last ten winners started at 10/1 or shorter.
Willie Mullins’ Total Recall is favourite and that’s understandable as he looked a class above his rivals when landing a gamble at Limerick in October on his stable debut. However, the handicapper has taken a dim view of that romp, raising him a whopping 18lb, so his backers will be hoping he still has a few pounds in hand. I’m not so sure and given this is far more competitive I’m inclined to look elsewhere for the winner, especially as the Irish have a terrible record (just two placed from 22 runners in the last ten years).
I stopped at Tom George’s SINGLEFARMPAYMENT and the more I look at the seven-year-old’s profile the more I like his chances. The race regularly goes to a second-season chaser on the upgrade, like him, and his age group have won five of the last ten runnings. He also looks cut out for these big-field handicaps as he’s a strong traveller who jumps particularly well, as he showed when just touched off in Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival March. Last month’s second behind Cogry, again at Cheltenham, would have put him spot on for this and he now enjoys a 5lb pull with the winner.
He’s clearly at the peak of his powers and there may be more improvement in him now that he is more relaxed in his races. Highly strung as a youngster, he reportedly ‘held his breath’ on his first start for George just over a year ago, but the application of a hood has worked wonders since and he can now settle in behind and arrive when needed to. In Adrian Heskin, he has the perfect partner to execute that plan and we can also take encouragement from the strong recent form of the stable, with George having saddled a winner and a second in big races at Ascot on Saturday.
He’s currently 7/1 across the board and that is a perfectly fair price, while the more cautious amongst us can back him each-way at that price with Hills, who are paying out on a whopping seven places. Bar a fall, I’m struggling to see how he doesn’t fill one of those.
Of course, it never harms to have a couple of horses running for you in races of this nature and Hills’ 33/1 on Lucy Wadham’s POTTERS LEGEND is hard to resist given their place terms. Another seven-year-old in his second-season as a chaser, he has a right form chance based on a couple of four-placed finishes in big-field handicaps at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals in the spring, and tellingly both of those came on good ground.
Granted, he was a beaten favourite at Bangor last month, but given he’s a strong stayer I thought he was given a less than enterprising ride around that sharp track and connections are now reaching for first time blinkers. With a feather weight to carry and the in-form Brian Hughes booked (he is riding at his minimum), I can easily see him running into the places to ensure a tidy profit.
It would be wrong not to mention the likes of American and Whisper as they are both single-digit prices. However, they are not for me with the ground a big negative for the former, while Whisper looks to have a stiff task with 11st 8lb to carry and, besides, I’m not sure his sometimes suspect jumping is going to hold up in this field. Of the rest, A Genie In Abottle and Vyta Du Roc will have their supporters, but they are both out-and-out stayers and could have done with some rain.
All odds were correct at time of posting.