Steve Hughes previews a stellar card at Newbury
Heavy overnight rain has ensured soft ground specialists should be to the fore at Newbury today. That certainly is a big aid to my confident selection for the featured Ladbrokes Trophy.
Newbury 1.20: On Tour & The Bay Birch
Two against the field here in an open handicap.
On Tour was very eyecatching on his return at Chepstow in October. Normally he runs a cracker first time out, but jockey Adam Wedge did not seem to give him a hard time that day and he ultimately eased home 15l behind the winner. However the way he raced suggested he would be better next time out. Because he goes so well fresh that day has come another seven weeks away and he is on a fair mark, just 3lbs higher than for an Aintree win twelve months ago. He held every chance in this contest twelve months ago when being brought down three out and will have been helped by the rain this morning.
I also want to take a chance with The Bay Birch who was in great form on joining the Matt Sheppard yard last winter. In seven races she won four times and was second on the other three, but looked especially good when encountering testing conditions. Despite going up 34lbs in the handicap, her winning run did not look at and when a good second in a valuable Cheltenham contest on quicker ground than ideal in April. She has not looked in the same form in two races this autumn – but both were over hurdles and on good going, so back over fences and on soft going, she might just resume her form of last term.
Newbury 1.50: Padleyourowncanoe
Ultra consistent since joining Colin Tizzard, Padleyourowncanoe can build on a solid autumn campaign now he gets a stiffer test of stamina.
An inspired buy, as he was of no great ability on the flat, the 4yo landed back to back handicap wins at this time last year, including an 8l win at Taunton in December over 2m3f. He then went on to finish a fine fourth in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham back at the minimum distance, albeit at a frantic pace.
He has run two cracking races in contests restricted to 4yo’s this autumn, latterly finishing third at Cheltenham. However both have been on good ground and over 2m and given he has already win over 2m3f, I am sure this 2m5f trip will see him in a better light, whilst potentially inconveniencing others.
Newbury 3.00: Thomas Patrick
He has only raced in five chases, but Thomas Patrick looks a real horse to follow over the bigger obstacles. Whether he is up to the highest graded company later in the year remains to be seen, but I am sure he is capable of taking a big handicap such as this.
Although beaten by Elegant Escape on his comeback at Sandown last month, we saw how bold a jumper he was and he might well come on for the run more than his conqueror that day – and on 5lbs better terms. I also have a feeling Thomas Patrick might turn out to be best going left-handed (3-3 over fences as opposed to 0-2 going right).
Last season he beat subsequent Bet365 Gold Cup winner Step Back on chasing debut at Chepstow and was a convincing 8l winner over course and distance in March, prior to landing a Grand National day handicap at Aintree. Richard Johnson is a perfect fit for the 6yo and will surely allow this horse to race handily all the way to utilise his exuberant jumping to maximum effect.
Newbury 3.35: Rock on Rocky
At first glance Rock on Rocky’s recent form looks moderate. However his last four runs have all been on unsuitably fast going and a return to a softer surface and can bring about a real transformation here.
Those three recent outings have seen him go respectably, notably when a solid fourth at Cheltenham two weeks ago. They will also have served to get him right up to peak fitness – but he has also dropped 6lbs in the handicap which will help and effectively sees him race off bottom weight today with the jockey’s claim – another benefit in such testing going.
Significantly, the last time we saw him race on genuine soft ground was here in March when he won by 11l. His recent ease in the ratings means he is only 6lbs higher for that today, and we should see the real Rock on Rocky today.
1pt win – On Tour – 1.20 Newbury – 6/1 general
0.5pts each-way – The Bay Birch – 1.20 Newbury – 20/1 general (Bet365 ¼ odds first 3)
0.75pts each-way – Padleyourowncanoe – 1.50 Newbury – 11/1 general
2pts win – Thomas Patrick – 3.00 Newbury – 7/2 general
0.75pts each-way – Rock on Rocky – 3.35 Newbury – 14/1 Bet365