Forty-five still on course for Newbury's first running of the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy - but no Smad Place
A bumper 45 horses a still on course for the Ladbrokes Trophy - previously known as the Hennessy Gold Cup - at Newbury on Saturday, December 2.
All the main contenders go forward including the Willie Mullins trained Total Recall - one of the twelve remaining Irish-trained entries - and now the 5-1 favourite with Ladbrokes.
Heading Nicky Henderson's three entries is the nine year-old gelding Whisper who won his first outing of the jump season at Kempton (November 13) - albeit in a two horse race. Henderson's other firm runner is Vyta Du Roc.
The weights are headed by Coneygree (11st 12lb) - trained by Mark Bradstock - the hero of the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Also still in the mix is the Warren Greatrex trained Missed Approach. But his season got off to a wobbly start when he was pulled up by Richard Johnson in the bet365 Hurdle at Weatherby on November 4.
However, on the down side for his many local fans, among the fifteen horses scratched at this stage is Smad Place. Trained at Barbury Castle by Alan King, he won the Hennessy in 2015 and came home a good seventh last year in the final running of the three and a quarter mile handicap chase under Hennessy sponsorship.
Since this 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.
The Long Distance Hurdle will see the much anticipated duel between Thistlecrack and the Harry Fry trained Unowhatimeanharry who won Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown last April and started this season with a one-and-a-half length victory at Aintree under Barry Geraghty in the Read Noel Fehily at 188Bet Hurdle (November 11.) Which was a bit ironic as it was Fehily who rode him to victory at Punchestown.
Thistlecrack (trained by Colin Tizzard) won this race two years ago and Unowhatimeanharry won it last year. When Thistlecrack (usually partnered by Tom Scudamore) won in 2015, the last horse home was Whisper, who probably was not quite right as Nico de Boinville dismounted soon after the finish.
The five-day confirmation stage for the Ladbrokes Trophy is on Monday, November 27. The maximum field for the race is 24 - with two reserves.