Steve Hughes previews Newbury’s big day of the year
There are a series of good handicaps at Newbury but the undoubted feature is the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy). I think three bets are necessary to cover the options, but one each-way wager stands out if you want to go all in on a single horse. I have selections from three other contests on the Newbury card plus a best bet from the good supporting fixture at Newcastle. We got December off to a cracking start with a 20/1 double through Willoughby Court (2/1) and Oldgrangewood (6/1)
Newbury 1.20: O Maonlai
This will be O Maonlai’s third attempt at the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Chase and I think we can assume he has been trained with this race alone in mind after a win and a second place previously.
He does look best fresh with first time out form figures of 13421. However it was his almost effortless win in this race last year – his first run for eight months that makes him a stand out for today.
Rarely troubled during the race he ultimately eased to a 5l success over Warriors Tale. He is a regular at this track, which he obviously handles well, but he seems one of those horses that is best off a long break. The handicapper has dropped him 3lbs from his last run which will help too.
Newbury 1.50: Old Guard & Coeur de Lion
Two of the classier horses are fancied against the field.
Old Guard has recaptured his best form this autumn after a spell in the wilderness. Two seasons he ago he landed a Cheltenham hat-trick including the Greatwood Hurdle and the Grade 2 International. Not as good since, especially over fences, he has dropped to a fairer mark. He has only won the once – in a listed hurdle at Kempton, but is off the same mark as when third in the Greatwood. Having got outpaced coming down the hill, he was running on strongly at the finish over the stiff 2m and this extra half-mile should be ideal.
Coeur De Lion is probably high enough in the ratings based on a solid juvenile season, but Kevin Dowling takes the huge 10lb claim to reduce his burden and he looks sure to improve for this step up in trip. He was far from disgraced in fifth in the Elite at Wincanton (a sharp 2m) but based on his staying on second in the Cesarewitch Trial over 2m2f at Newmarket there should be plenty more to come at this longer trip.
Newbury 3.00: Total Recall, Singlefarmpayment & Cogry
An excellent renewal of Newbury’s primary jumps race and the presence of former Gold Cup winner Coneygree means plenty of class horses get in off low weights here.
I have to go in with Total Recall as he was such an easy winner of the Munster National, his first start for Willie Mullins. An 18lb rise looks fair enough and he travelled really well in a similar race on similar going at Leopardstown in January, only to be virtually knocked over on the home bend. With only 10-8 to carry he could have more to offer.
Main selection (at least as an each-way bet) is Singlefarmpayment, to give jockey Adrian Heskin his biggest profile winner in Britain. He looks made for this contest and is building a really consistent profile in big field handicaps. He was so narrowly touched off at the Cheltenham Festival over 3m1f and his reappearance over the same course and distance five weeks ago was more than satisfactory given that was effectively a preparation for today. He good traveller and jumper, my only worry is his tendency to idle in front – will he get worried out of it on the run-in?
However as I was impressed by his comeback, the horse that beat him hands down Cogry has to come into the equation. Sam Twiston-Davies showed that day how to ride him – to be positive, especially over the jumps. A thorough stayer (he was second in the Scottish National on his previous run), he will no doubt be ridden up with the pace – a tactic that has been incredibly successful in this race.
Newcastle 3.20: Bishops Road.
Although this is his first start of the new season, things might fall right for Bishops Road to begin with a bang.
Firstly the wintry showers at the track during the week will ensure this is a real stamina test on soft going, something he relishes. He is now back down to his last winning mark of 144 when storming home on bad ground in the Grand National Trial at Haydock.
This does not look a strong race for the grade and the two top weights like to go from the front and could cancel each other out. In any case Wakanda is unproven on ground this soft, whilst Yala Enki is a small horse to be carrying top weight on this going.
1pt win – O Maonlai – 1.20 Newbury – 5/1 general
1pt win – Old Guard – 1.50 Newbury – 7/1 Bet365, William Hill, BetVictor
0.75pts each-way – Coeur de Lion – 1.50 Newbury – 10/1 Stan James
1pt win – Total Recall – 3.0 Newbury – 6/1 Stan James
0.75pts each-way – Singlefarmpayment – 3.0 Newbury – 7/1 general (plenty of bookies offering ¼ odds first 5)
0.5pts each-way – Cogry – 3.0 Newbury – 16/1 Bet365, BetVictor (¼ odds first 5)
1pt win – Bishops Road – 3.20 Newcastle – 4/1 general