Newbury's morning gallops ahead of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival sees AP back in the saddle - on the favourite
AP McCoy was back in the saddle at Newbury Racecourse (Tuesday, November 19) to give Ok Corral - the current favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy - a turn over Newbury's grass as part the racecourse's gallops morning ahead of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival (29 & 30 November).
Ok Corral, a nine year-old gelding owned by JP McManus and trained at Lambourn by Nicky Henderson, has won five of his ten races under rules.
He has not run since he disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival in March - being pulled up in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Novices Chase. It was, however, a race that saw eight falls, one unseated rider and five entrants being pulled up.
Thirty horses took part in the morning - either galloping or schooling over jumps - in front of the media and members of the Racehorse Owners Association. The morning was introduced and commentated by Luke Harvey and Richard Hoiles.
Of special local interest was Ladbrokes Trophy entry De Rasher Counter - trained at Ogbourne Maizey by Emma Lavelle and at Newbury for a gallop and for schooling with stable-mate Private Malone (Henry Platt) as companion. Ridden by in form jockey Adam Wedge, De Rasher Counter schooled over the five jumps in the back straight - and his jumping looked to be spot on.
As Emma Lavelle put it: "He was very accurate, very fluent and quick too over the jumps. There's a lot going on in his head, but once he's on the course and galloping, he's a serious racehorse. He's got an interesting profile for the race."
It will be intriguing to see whether his proficient performance over Newbury's jumps will bring his odds in from 20/1 for the Ladbrokes Trophy.
Seven year-old gelding De Rasher Counter was bred by Karina Casini who runs the Greenlands Farm National Hunt Stud near Marlborough. He is owned by the Makin' Bacon Partnership - one of whose members is Andrew Gemmell.
And Andrew Gemmell's Paisley Park (ridden for the morning's gallop by Barry Fenton) was also there for a 'leg stretch' in preparation for his first race of the season on the Friday of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival - in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle.
Emma Lavelle was really pleased with Paisley's morning outing: "He was so much better in the paddock and the pre-parade ring - last time here he behaved like a three year-old! He's exactly the same to train as before - he probably knows he's quite important! But he's bigger and he's stronger than last season."
The Grade 2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle could develop into a stern comeback test for Paisley Park with previous winners Unowhatimeanharry (given a gallop at Newbury by AP McCoy), Thistlecrack (who worked at Newbury under Harry Cobden) and The Worlds End, winner of the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, all set to run.
Other entrants for the Ladbrokes Trophy taking part in the morning gallops at Newbury were Beware The Bear, Brave Eagle, Mister Whitaker, Robinsfirth, Mister Malarky and Some Chaos. Another favoured entrant is the Willie Mullins trained Cabaret Queen who did not make it from Ireland to get a taste of the Newbury experience!
Denman, the only horse since Arkle to win the Hennessy Gold Cup twice, has been permanently remembered at Newbury Racecourse by a specially commissioned set of iron gates which are named after him.
This memorial to the legendary chaser stands at the North Entrance and will be officially opened ahead of racing on Friday, 29 November - the first day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival. They will be opened by Denman connections including: Paul Barber, Harry Findlay, Paul Nicholls, Ruby Walsh and Sam Thomas.
Denman emulated Arkle by winning the Hennessy Gold Cup, now the Ladbrokes Trophy, in 2007 and 2009, with this year marking the 10th anniversary of his second win in the race.
In recording his second victory, which followed a spell out of training due to a heart condition, he produced one of the most memorable performances of the modern era by winning from what seemed an improbable handicap mark of 174.
Popularly known as ‘The Tank’, Denman was owned by Paul Barber and the late Margaret Findlay and trained by Paul Nicholls. He also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2008, defeating stablemate and rival Kauto Star.
The new gates are the result of a collaboration between the well known equine sculptor Charlie Langton and celebrated local blacksmith Guy Clarkson.
Owner, Paul Barber said: “I am touched that Newbury Racecourse has chosen to permanently commemorate Denman in such a fitting way. Put simply, he was a horse of lifetime.”