If you are able to settle for fair to middling equine action of a Friday, then fair enough. Indeed, you’ll find five supporting cards to get stuck into, on the last day of what has felt like a very long week approaching this top notch weekend of National Hunt action upon us. Day 1 of Newbury’s superb Ladbrokes Trophy meeting is where it’s really at though and racing starts at 12.10pm with a 20-runner maiden hurdle…let’s try to find some winners.
Oliver Sherwood has enjoyed a bright start to the 2018-2019 campaign and his Severano is a nice prospect to keep an eye on in the first, but I think this is an ideal opening for Nicky Martin’s BANG ON FRANKIE to get off the mark over hurdles. This 6yo produced some smart form in his first two starts over hurdles at the back end of 2017, beaten in races won by the likes of Western Ryder and On The Blind Side. He returned from 11 months off to chase home Thomas Darby at Cheltenham last time out, running to a career best on the figures. Time off from the track aside, his last three sets of RPR/Topspeed figures read: 115/92 – 124/105 – 125/107, so it is clear to me he is a progressive youngster and with a clear round he will go very close indeed.
The 12.45pm is an interesting Novices’ Handicap Chase over an extended two mile trip, where Ben Pauling’s Delire D’Estruval is finely poised to strike again under the brilliant Daryl Jacob, following their battling but quality success together at Carlisle last time out. He is up a very fair 4lb from that effort, seems versatile in regard to the ground and should have more to offer. At likely bigger odds though, I may just hazard a chance on chasing debutant CLONDAW CASTLE, who faces a stiff task first time up with a BHA mark of 132 to overcome. The horse has disappointed a couple times, but when he’s good he’s really quite decent and he beat Global Citizen first time out last year; so clearly goes well fresh. Tom George is one of my favourite jumps trainers at the moment and if he says this horse doesn’t need a run in a Beginners’ or Novice Chase before going handicapping at places like Newbury, then who am I to argue?
In the 1.20pm Novices’ Hurdle over 2m4f, Tom Lacey’s 5yo grey called KATESON stands out like a baboon in heat. A big, backward sort, this lad runs with an awkward head carriage, but he clearly has a mammoth engine in there. In running to an RPR of 131 at Chepstow last time out, he showed himself to be a smart performer in the making, travelling and jumping with oodles of natural ability on show. I’d like to see him get his head down a bit more in the closing stages, but he should have too much for this lot.
The 1.50pm Novices’ Chase only has four runners and really, we just want to see how La Bague Au Roi, Lostintranslation and Spiritofthegames sort themselves out as the ones to focus on. If pushed for a selection, I’d say the second named Colin Tizzard runner could reverse form with the mare, back in trip with that run under his belt. But it’s a watching brief from me. I backed ASO at 20/1 earlier in the week and posted Venetia Williams’ returning 8yo in my GG column, so I’m pleased to see he lines up in the 2.25pm, with just the seven declared to post. The best of his form would give him a huge chance from a mark of 150 and with the rain arriving, you’d think and hope Venetia’s runners will start to fire. Willoughby Court is the potential class act, but I’m not afraid of anything else in the field in terms of form, more how sharp Aso will be after 13 months off. We’ll see.
The main event of the day is the Long Distance Hurdle at 3.00pm, where Wholestone and Sam Spinner cut a formidable pairing at the head of the market. Of the pair, Sam Spinner could just have a little too much quality for Wholestone if he’s really firing first time out. But to be honest, I’m not in a terrible rush to back either of them, or Unowhatimeanharry third in the betting for that matter. So, in the dead field of eight, I’ll chance my arm at a surprise. MOMELLA is very interesting up in trip here for Harry Fry, she’s unexposed on the scene and brings some very bright Novice Hurdling form to the table. I’ll be backing her each-way, along with Jamie Snowden’s MONBEG THEATRE at a considerably bigger price. This 9yo stays really well, is consistent as they come and despite being wholly outclassed on bare form ratings, he’s been very, very good on the clock of late and I’m intrigued to see how he runs here, arriving as a fit and in-form horse. It’s nice to see connections entrust Page Fuller with this horse in such a prestigious race and it would be great for them to run a big race in it. I think they just might.
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Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.