Newbury Racecourse's first Ladbrokes Winter Carnival: Irish raider Total Recall lands Ladbrokes Trophy - delighting Willie Mullins & Irish visitors
The Ladbrokes Trophy - previously known famously as the Hennessy Gold Cup - on day two of Newbury Racecourse's first Ladbrokes Winter Carnival, is the second richest handicap chase run in Britain - with £250,000 in prize money. It was won on Saturday (December 2) by Irish challenger and 9/2 favourite Total Recall.
It was a great result for the many Irish visitors among the 17,000 crowd and a great result for his trainer Willie Mullins - as one headline put it "Total Redemption".
Fifteen years ago his horse Be My Royal crossed the line first in the Hennessy Gold Cup - only to be disqualified over a banned substance in contaminated food.
Total Recall, ridden by Paul Townend, became the first Irish-trained horse since Bright Highway in 1980 to land the feature £250,000 Grade 3 three and a quarter-mile handicap Ladbrokes Trophy.
Always travelling well in mid-division, Paul Townend delivered his charge three out and looked set to go right away. However, Whisper (Nicky Henderson/Davy Russell) was a most tenacious opponent and it was only after a sustained duel up the run in that Total Recall overhauled him to emerge as the winner by a neck.
Another nine lengths back, sixty-six-to-one outsider Regal Encore (Anthony Honeyball/Richie McLernon) was third of the 20 runners, with Braqueur D'Or (Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden) fourth. Bryony Frost on the Paul Nicholls trained Present Man will have to wait another year to become the first female jockey to win the race - they came in last of those that finished.
Successful trainer Willie Mullins said: "I think a lot of the credit must go to Sandra Hughes, who used her father's methods and progressed very slowly with this horse. Sandra retired and we have just got the benefit of it."
"I thought Paul was fantastic, he was very cool. I thought he was beaten going to the last but he switched sides and got a different run on the other side. He has always been a good jockey and I am lucky to have him."
Total Recall is now a 20/1 chance with Ladbrokes for the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Nicky Henderson trains the runner-up Whisper: "To be fair, Davy has given Whisper a wonderful ride. He always had room, he always had the horse in the right place and he jumped beautifully. I was worried about whether Whisper would be grown up enough - even though he is an older horse, he has only had five or six runs over fences - but he has run a great race."
A disappointment in the race was top-weight Coneygree (Mark Bradstock/Nico de Boinville) who raced prominently before weakening, eventually pulling up after the seventeenth fence.
Ladbrokes Trophy Day pulled in a crowd of 16,986 while Friday saw 8,431 racegoers in attendance, which was up 1,000 up on the 2016 figure.
Julian Thick, Chief Executive of Newbury Racecourse, said: "We have been encouraged by the crowd figures across the two days. This is the first of a five-year deal with Ladbrokes and we intend to keep growing and improving what we have on offer. We have been treated to two fantastic days racing, the first Irish winner in 37 years and planning for 2018 will start immediately."
Local interest on the first day of the meeting was with Yanworth - trained by Alan King at Barbury Castle and seen by some as a worthy heir to Smad Place. Only recently graduated from a highly successful hurdling career, Yanworth fell over fences at Exeter last month.
He finished second in the Grade Two novice chase (December 1) three lengths behind Willoughby Court. Ridden by Barry Geraghty Yanworth had been odds-on to take the race.
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In the winners' enclosure Alan King called a vet over to look at the back of Yanworth's off-front leg. King said he had suffered a few nasty overreaches' during the race. But the trainer will continue running him over fences - aiming at a chase during the Cheltenham Festival in March.