Stuart Williams takes an in-depth look at the runners and odds for the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at the Newbury Winter Carnival.
- The Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy Chase takes place at 15:00 at Newbury on Saturday 28th November.
- Vinndication is currently the favourite to win the race, closely followed by Aye Right.
Ladbrokes Trophy Preview & Runners Guide
The Ladbrokes Trophy holds a special place in racing's rich tapestry given it's association with former greats such as Mill House, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad, One Man and, more recently, the 'Tank' that was Denman, who all feature on the illustrious roll of honour that will grow once more on Saturday.
Indeed, Newbury's premier Grade 3 handicap is a pillar of the National Hunt season, and it has often been used as a springboard to success in Cheltenham Gold Cup's, Aintree Grand National's and a whole host of other top class races given the quality of horse that the race attracts.
Only two horses have defied top-weight since John Francome steered the Jenny Pitman trained Burrough Hill Lad to victory in 1984, namely Trabolgan in 2005 and the mighty Denman in both 2007 and 2009, and no winner outside of that pair has carried more than 11-08 to victory in that same period of time.
Both subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bob's Worth and Grand National hero Many Clouds defied burdens of 11-06 in 2012 and 2014 respectively, further demonstrating the calibre of horse required to land this valuable prize. Therefore we are ideally looking for horses who are carrying 11-08 or less and have the potential to develop into a graded performer further down the line.
Thirteen of last twenty-one renewal's have gone the way of second season chasers, again supporting the theory that this race favours up-and-coming chasers who have the potential to improve upon what they have achieved thus far and indeed progress to much bigger things in the future.
It is also worth noting that it pays to be prominent in Newbury's showpiece contest, as no horse anchored in rear has been successful since the Martin Pipe trained Celestial Gold justified favouritism in 2004, with many winners travelling in the front third throughout, and the rest no further back than midfield. Therefore it is perhaps wise to steer clear of hold-up horses on Saturday.
Newbury Clerk of the Course Keith Ottesen predicted that the ground will be between 'good' and 'good to soft' when speaking publicly on Tuesday, which looks accurate given the lack of rainfall throughout the week. Therefore we will work on that assessment and I will start by introducing a shortlist of five horses who fit the criteria set out above.
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Ladbrokes Trophy Runners
The northern trained Aye Right ticks many boxes and it was impossible not to be impressed by his his third placed effort in the Charlie Hall Chase as Wetherby given the way in which he jumped, travelled and ran on resolutely against vastly more experienced rivals on unfavourable terms.
Indeed, Harriet Graham's stable star matched strides with the highest rated horse in training Cyrname until the penultimate fence at Wetherby, and he will have a 7lbs pull at the weights with the runner-up Vinndication, which will only aid his cause.
Aye Right led the way on that occasion and put pressure on his rivals by virtue of his slick fencing, which is impressive to say the least given his relative inexperience. The form of his penultimate outing at Kelso, when chasing home Nuts Well over a totally inadequate trip of 2m1f, also reads well as the winner defied top-weight when landing the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase on his only subsequent start.
Connections view the progressive son of Yeats as a Scottish National Horse down the line, therefore he should relish this three-and-a-quarter mile trip and he is naturally open to significant improvement after just five starts over fences.
Versatile in terms of ground, I am in no doubt whatsoever that Aye Right is a very big player on Saturday.
Black Op has endured somewhat of a stop-start career and many had virtually written him off completely after a failed chasing campaign in the autumn of 2018 preceded an unsuccessful Stayers Hurdle bid in the spring of 2019. However, he did display sufficient promise as a novice last season to suggest that he could be a player in a race such as this.
In fact, when you delve deeper into the form of his two chase starts in 2018/19, it is perhaps harsh to suggest that they were in any way poor, as he chased home subsequent Grade 1 winners Defi Du Seuil and Topofthegame at Exeter, and Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil again at Cheltenham.
Tom George's nine-year-old jumped these Newbury fences well when beaten only by subsequent RSA Chase scorer Champ at this meeting last year, and he may have given Slate House a few more problems in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton had the race been run at a true gallop, as it virtually became a sprint in the final three furlongs and suited the winner much more.
The five rivals who finished ahead of Black Op in novice chase company are now rated 171, 169, 165, 165 and 150, therefore he looks fairly treated on his handicap debut off a mark of 150.
Fourth behind last weekend's Ascot Grade 2 scorer Imperial Aura on his seaonal debut in Listed company at Carlisle, Black Op should come on plenty for that outing and he will be well suited by going left-handed on a galloping track.
Colin Tizzard has saddled two winners in the last four years and four placed runners in the last seven years, and he appears to have an ideal contender this year in the form of Copperhead, who was easily one of the most progressive novice chasers in training last season, easily landing races at Wincanton, Newbury and Ascot, including a facile handicap success over Saturday's course and distance and a 17 length romp in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase.
A faller at the last when already well held in the RSA Chase in March, it's no secret that the Tizzard horses failed to fire at Cheltenham and I would therefore be inclined to put a line through that effort. I also have a suspicion that his Ascot exertions may have left as mark, an argument that may well be supported by the fact that Robbie Power chose to ride stablemate Slate House instead, even though he was four times the price of Copperhead and had attracted much less media attention in the build-up.
If the pre-Cheltenham Copperhead lines-up on Saturday then he would undoubtedly hold strong claims on the form book. However, it was alarming to see how quickly he stopped on his seasonal reappearance in the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, which does rather temper enthusiasm.
That said, Colin Tizzard's Venn Farm team have taken much longer to come to hand this season, and many of their inmates have improved for their seasonal debut. Therefore all hope is not lost and it certainly wouldn't be the biggest surprise in the world if he picked up from where he left off at Ascot.
Potterman could represent significant each-way value if jumping fluently in the hands of Tom Cannon.
Alan King's good ground loving seven-year-old defeated two subsequent scorers at Market Rasen in August, and he was narrowly denied by one of those progressive rivals in a photo finish to the Listed Badger Beers Handicap Chase at Wincanton earlier this this month.
Potterman is 5lbs well in here after being handed a 5lbs rise for that agonising defeat, and he will meet October's Chepstow victor Secret Investor on 6lbs better terms. The Sulamani gelding boasts form-figures of 152122 over trips in excess of two-miles-and-seven-furlongs, and all 8 of his previous career victories have been achieved on good ground, therefore he will enjoy the conditions at Newbury.
There is little doubt that his jumping cost him dearly at Wincanton as he lacked fluency and became temporarily outpaced before staying-on strongly to the line. However, if he can settle into a rhythm early on this Saturday, he is more than capable of exceeding market expectations.
Two For Gold
Kim Bailey has enjoyed a terrific autumn campaign thus far, something that was further highlighted by a big race double at Ascot last Saturday. The Andoversford based handler will be doubly represented in Saturday's showpiece contest, and i'm particularly interested Two For Gold, who won his first three starts over fences last season culminating the Grade 2 Hampton Novices' Chase at Warwick, where he defeated subsequent Cheltenham Festival third Hold The Note in determined fashion.
The front pair pulled 13 lengths clear of the third placed Whatmore, who has since placed fourth at the Cheltenham Festival and second in the Grade 3 Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot from a mark of 138, which adds further substance to the form.
It's entirely possible that Two For Gold was still feeling the effects of his battling Warwick success when chasing home the aforementioned Copperhead in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot in February, and he will meet Colin Tizzard's charge on 9lbs better terms this weekend, which could easily see those placings reversed.
The hardy son of Gold Well made a pleasing return to action behind a well handicapped rival over a trip short of his best at Wetherby last month, and he could easily prove better than a mark of 148. He fits the desired profile as a second season chaser who will carry just 10-12 and whom likes to races prominently, and he certainly has an attitude that will serve him well over staying trips. Therefore he warrants his place on the shortlist.
The Conditional was hugely progressive last season and was last seen landing the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, where he overcame a significant mistake at the penultimate fence to arguably win a shade cosily.
David Bridgwater's charge will compete off a 10lbs higher mark than when placing second in this race 12 months ago, and he does lack the benefit of a run this season, which does temper enthusiasm. However, he could easily have more to come following his long summer break and he should not be readily dismissed.
Kildisart was only half a length behind The Conditional at the Cheltenham Festival and he will be 3lbs better off with that rival on Saturday.
The Simon Muir and Isaac Souede owned eight-year-old has acquitted himself well in big fields handicaps over the last 18 months, and although he remains 7lbs above his last winning mark, when defeating two subsequent Grade 3 scorers in Mister Malarky and Oldgrangewood in Grade 3 company at Aintree, he has the ability to run a big race following a solid reappearance effort at Wetherby and a racecourse gallop at Newbury.
I was quite content that Vinndication's fine fourth placed effort in the Ultima Handicap Chase - under the burden of top-weight - had dispelled the notion that he was less effective on left-handed tracks. However, his second placed effort in the Charlie Hall Chase, albeit highly credible against the mighty Cyrname, did force me to reconsider, and his schooling session at Newbury last week did little to quell my suspicions.
Kim Bailey's high-class seven-year-old boasts form-figures of 11111131 on right-handed tracks, as opposed to 542 on left-handed-tracks, albeit the first two placings were achieved in graded company at Cheltenham Festival, and the latter behind the highest rated horse in training.
Vinndication will be 3lbs better off with The Conditional and 6lbs better off with Kildisart on their Cheltenham Festival clash in the spring, and if any of those carrying more than 11-08 are going to triumph this year, he would be the most likely candidate.
Ballyoptic has been eased 1lb since pulling-up in the aforementioned Charlie Hall Chase but remains 5lbs higher than when winning at Ascot in February. While 2019 Ultima Handicap Chase hero Beware The Bear has placed fourth in the last two renewals off this race and will compete from the very same mark as last year, therefore he holds place claims once more following a racecourse gallop at Newbury last week.
Secret Investor is the only other candidate who will attempt to defy the weights statistics, and he could be a player judged on his defeat of the shortlisted Potterman on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow in October.
That said, Paul Nicholls inmate enjoyed the run of the race on that occasion and he won't necessarily get things his own way on Saturday. The extra two furlongs are also a question mark, while a 9lbs rise won't make life easy.
Cloth Cap placed third off this mark as Ascot last November and will strip fitter for his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham last month. Consistent at this level, Trevor Hemmings' stout-stayer placed eight at the Cheltenham Festival in March and will relish the good ground that he is likely to encounter. Therefore he certainly holds place claims off his competitive rating.
Mister Malarky is a similarly solid campaigner who will provide Colin Tizzard with a credible second string to his bow.
A Grade 3 winner at Kempton in February, Mister Malarky was far from disgraced when placing sixth in the Grade 3 Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot four weeks ago, and he normally improves markedly for his seasonal debut. Therefore he may be able to better last year's sixth placed finish off the very same mark of 150.
Danny Whizzbang has failed to live up to expectations since making a successful chasing debut in Grade 2 company at this meeting 12 months ago, and he could only place seventh when sent off a well supported 4/1 favourite for the Listed Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton three weeks ago.
The Getaway gelding will compete from the very sane mark of 145 tomorrow and he may well be suited by the extra furlong. However, he will need to improve markedly on what he has achieved thus far in order to be competitive.
Regal Encore has contested this race three times previously, pulling-up either side of a third placed finish in 2017 that was achieved from a 1lb lower mark than that from which he will line-up on Saturday.
Anthony Honeyball's charge will become a teenager in January yet he showed no signs of waning when landing the Grade 3 Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot last month. However, he does seem to save his best effort for Ascot these days, and he will have to contend with a 6lbs rise following that splendid success.
La Bague Au Roi defeated top class chasers Lostintranslation, Topofthegame and Santini in a novice chase campaign that saw her land a brace of Grade 1 victories at Kempton and Leopardstown respectively. However, she has been a shadow of her former self over the last 12 months, and she will need to take a big step forwards from her fifth placed effort in the Charlie Hall Chase last month.
Clearly a top class mare in her pomp, La Bague Au Roi boasts form-figures if 111 at Newbury and would undoubtedly be very well treated if bouncing back to form. However, there is little evidence to suggest that she will.
Ardlethen made a promising start over fences last autumn when defeating subsequent Stayers Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar on his chasing debut at Chepstow, before chasing home Sam Spinner on his next outing at Wetherby. However, in spite of placing second in the Grade 2 Towton Novices' Chase in February, he failed to get his nose in front again last season, and he was well enough held on his return to action at Carlisle to suggest that a race such as this may be beyond him at this stage.
Dan Skelton's charge is naturally open to progression in his second season over fences. However, he has already been well held by a number of his rivals, and he has also been positioned in the rear of the field on his most recent starts, which, as discussed above, isn't a desirable tactic in this contest.
The field will be completed by The Hollow Ginge, who had The Conditional back in third when making a successful chasing debut a Worcester last season, and he again ran well when being narrowly denied by subsequent Kim Muir Challenge Cup fourth Plan Of Attack, whom received 5lbs, at Aintree one month later.
A shade disappointing thereafter, the Oscar gelding seems to be at his best during the first half of the season, therefore he could easily outperform market expectations if finding a good rhythm early on.
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Ladbrokes Trophy Tips
Vinndication remains lightly raced for his age and has already proven himself to be a high-class operator. Yet to score on a left-handed track, Kim Bailey's charge will need to jump more fluently than he did at Wetherby or he risks conceding ground at every fence, which won't be easy to recover under his welterweight burden.
The Conditional and Kildisart have developed into solid handicap chasers who could easily go close once more. However, both are vulnerable to up-and-coming second season chasers who may have more in hand at this stage of the season.
Two For Gold is such a candidate and he will undoubtedly strip fitter for his reappearance effort at Wetherby last month. The form of his Grade 2 success at Warwick looks particularly strong and his ability to travel prominently is clearly advantageous.
The Gold Well gelding will meet his Ascot conquerer Copperhead, who also rates a live contender if bouncing back to form after his laboured effort at Wetherby, on 9lbs better terms. However, it should be noted that stable jockey David Bass has elected to ride Vinndication, which provides an insight into the pecking order at home.
Black Op has bumped into some top class chasers since heading over fences and he could be fairly well treated on his handicap debut. Tom George's nine-year-old jumped these fences well when chasing home subsequent RSA Chase scorer Champ at this meeting 12 months ago and he has been aimed at this race for some time, therefore he should not be underestimated.
The former performed like a seasoned professional against vastly more experienced rivals in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, and that experience will undoubtedly serve him well on Saturday. Harriet Graham's stable star jumps well, likes to travel prominently, has scope to improve past his current rating and will enjoy the decent ground that he will encounter, which may make him hard to peg back over a trip that should suit, as connections see him as a future Scottish Grand National horse.
Aye Right has a nice racing weight of 11-00 and will be partnered by his long-time ally Callum Bewley, who knows him better than anyone. Therefore everything is in place for a very big run.
The latter will need to jump better than when being narrowly denied in the Listed Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton three weeks ago, however, he is officially 5lbs well-in and he will be suited by the dry conditions.
Potterman lost ground as the pace increased at Wincanton, and I'm confident that he would have been able to maintain his position better had he jumped with more fluency throughout. He did, however, stay on powerfully in the closing states to be beaten by the narrowest of margins, which not only demonstrates his fine attitude, but also that he possesses the ability to be competitive off his rating
That effort suggested that trips such this are well within Potterman's range in terms of stamina, and the progressive seven-year-old may find it easier to settle into a good jumping rhythm on Newbury's galloping track. Therefore he make sufficient appeal at a double figure price.
Ladbrokes Trophy Entries
- Secret Investor
- Beware The Bear
- Regal Encore
- Aye Right
- Mister Malarky
- Black Op
- Two For Gold
- The Conditional
- La Bague Au Roi
- Danny Whizzbang
- The Hollow Ginge
- Cloth Cap