Entries announced for first Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury: can Smad Place make the winner's enclosure again?
The popular grey Smad Place - trained by Alan King at Barbury Castle - is among 60 entries revealed (November 1) for the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on the second day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival, Saturday, December 2.
Under Wayne Hutchinson, Smad Place won the race - when it was still the Hennessy Gold Cup - in 2015. The Hennessy connection to the race has now finished, but Smad Place - now ten years-old - is still a force to be reckoned with.
Last year, in Newbury's final running of the race under Hennessy sponsorship, Wayne Hutchinson brought him home seventh out of the thirteen finishers. And last week they won the Old Roan Handicap Chase (October 29) over two and a half miles at Aintree in amazing style.
Run over three and a quarter miles, the G3 Ladbrokes Trophy is the richest handicap chase in Britain apart from the Randox Health Grand National and is backed for the first time this year by Ladbrokes, who have made a five-year initial commitment to the race and the two-day Ladbrokes Winter Carnival meeting.
The lightly-raced chaser American (trained by Harry Fry), is the 8/1 joint-favourite with Ladbrokes. He had an excellent campaign over fences last season, winning all three of his starts - each at three miles.
Dorset-based trainer Harry Fry has been very happy with American: "We are looking forward to December 2 as he looks to have the right sort of profile for the race."
Current joint-favourite Total Recall is one of 17 Irish-trained entries - an increase of nine on last year - and made a perfect first start for Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins when bolting up in the valuable Ladbrokes Munster National at Limerick on October 8.
Mullins, who has five horses entered for the race, commented: "It is great that Ladbrokes have generously sponsored the two-day meeting in December at Newbury. There is good prize money on offer and we hope to be in the running for some of it."
Among other names to watch out for is Coneygree (trained by Mark Bradstock,14/1), the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero of 2015 and also ten years old, could bid to emulate his half-brother Carruthers who won this race in 2011.
Coneygree has only raced three times since his memorable Cheltenham success as a novice, but looked near his best when a close third in the G1 Punchestown Gold Cup in April.
Mark Bradstock, who trains not far from Newbury at Letcombe Bassett, has also entered Carruthers' full-brother Flintham (40/1).
Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson, Britain's champion Jump trainer and successful three times in the race since 2005, has four possible starters: Whisper (12/1), bet365 Gold Cup runner-up Vyta Du Roc (25/1), course winner Beware The Bear (25/1) and O O Seven (20/1).
Other high-profile entries include Singlefarmpayment (Tom George, 14/1), who made an encouraging comeback when second at Cheltenham last weekend, and Grimthorpe Handicap Chase victor Definitly Red (Brian Ellison, 16/1).
Weights for the Ladbrokes Trophy are unveiled on Tuesday, November 7.
Mike Dillon, Director of Public Relations at Ladbrokes, is delighted that the launch of their sponsorship is marked by such an impressive entry of outstanding chasers: "There can be little doubt that the inaugural staging of the Ladbrokes Trophy will live up to the rich traditions of one of the flagship events of the Jump season."
The maximum field for the race is 24. You can see a short video about the Ladbrokes Trophy here.
The inaugural Ladbrokes Winter Carnival - featuring the Ladbrokes Trophy - takes place on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 December 2017. The new sponsorship from Ladbrokes brings with it a larger prize pot for this year's contenders with the two days now worth a total of £700,000 in prize money. The Ladbrokes Trophy alone has prize money of £250,000, an increase of £50,000 on 2016.
Since the handicap chase was first run as the Hennessy Gold Cup in 1957, it has become one of the major highlights of the Jump season with so many memorable performances over the last 60 years from the likes of Mill House, Arkle, Denman, Many Clouds and last year's impressive winner, Native River.
The Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gets underway at Newbury on Friday, December 1, when the highlight is the £50,000 G2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle over three miles.
There will be live television coverage of the Friday races on ITV4 and of the Saturday races on ITV.