Newbury Races: Full house as Elegant Escape heads maximum field of 24 for £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy
The 3m2f handicap chase, the highlight of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival, drew 25 runners in 2002 but now has a field size limit of 24 which has been met for the first time since its introduction. There is one reserve.
The field is headed by Elegant Escape, last year’s runner-up and Coral Welsh National winner, who carries the top weight of 11st 12lb and is one of four trained by two-time race winner Colin Tizzard.
He will be the mount of Harry Cobden with jockey of the moment Robbie Power, who rode the winners of the Betfair Chase and Ladbrokes Troytown Chase in successive days last weekend, choosing West Approach.
Aidan Coleman partners the sponsor’s 6-1 favourite Ok Corral, whose trainer Nicky Henderson will also saddle four runners.
Cabaret Queen, the 15-2 second favourite from the stable of Willie Mullins, will bid to become the first mare in 60 years to win the race and only the fifth Irish-trained winner.
One of the springers in the market has been another Henderson runner On The Blind Side, whose odds have been cut to 11-1 from a price of 25-1 since he finished fourth on his reappearance behind Vinndication at Ascot.
“I noticed that but I think that is because he ran so well at Ascot,” said owner Alan Spence. “He came from a long way back to finish fourth.”
“He jumped the first two very novicey so Nico took him wider to give him a bit of confidence. Then he started to get better and better but it was too late in the race by then and he just ran on. If he hadn’t jumped the first two like he did I think he would have been second, I don’t think he would have beaten the winner.”
Spence, a vice president of Chelsea Football Club, is a Classic and Royal Ascot winner on the Flat but has never had a runner in the Ladbrokes Trophy: “I am expecting On The Blind Side to be thereabouts. He’s in great form. That race should have put him cherry ripe and he was running on at the end. That’s the first indication we’ve had that he would get an extra couple of furlongs.”
“He’s had a couple of runs at Cheltenham where he didn’t jump the first well and he got last and was out of the race and ended up being schooled round. Everything looks right on Saturday, except it’s a hard race.”
The largest field for the Ladbrokes Trophy was 27 in 1962 and the field size has only exceeded 20 on four other occasions.
Newbury clerk of the course Keith Ottesen said: “We are delighted to have a full field for the Ladbrokes Trophy this year which is the biggest since 2002. With horses from the top two jumps stable in Ireland included in the mix it promises to be a highly competitive and enthralling spectacle.”
“We had 6.5mm of rain on Wednesday. It is bright today and the going is soft, good to soft in places, with more good to soft areas on the chase course than the hurdles course.
“The forecast is for showers overnight but dry weather on Friday and Saturday with the chance of some sunny periods.”
Paisley Park takes on three former winners in Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle
Champion staying hurdler Paisley Park will make his hugely anticipated racing return against four opponents, three of whom are former winners of the race, on Friday on the opening day of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
Paisley Park, owned by Andrew Gemmell and trained by Emma Lavelle, became one of the most popular jumpers in training during an unbeaten 2018-19 jumps which culminated in triumph in the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He has visited Newbury twice this month to exercise on the track as part of his preparation for the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle.
A select field also includes two-time winner Unowhatimeanharry, Beer Goggles and Thistlecrack. The other challenger is The Worlds End, winner of the West Yorkshire Hurdle last time out.
Beer Goggles sprang a 40-1 surprise when he beat Unowhatimeanharry in 2017, then trained by the late Richard Woollacott. He ran only once more and has since transferred to the care of Nicky Martin, who also owns him with partner John Simpson.
“Beer Goggles has been off nearly two years after he got injured at Cheltenham,” said Martin. “He suffered a bit of a tendon injury in the Cleeve Hurdle. You could see when he came down the hill he started to hang very badly.”
“He is fresh. He had a racecourse gallop three weeks ago when he went to Chepstow, but he obviously has been off the track for nearly two years.”
“He has been a little star for us and I hope he goes well for Richard who is up there somewhere looking down on us. He was a close friend so this is all quite emotional.”
The Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle is part of a seven race card which also comprises the £50,000 Get Your Ladbrokes Free £1 Bet Handicap Chase, which features Kalashnikov and Glen Forsa, and £40,000 Grade 2 Ladbrokes ‘Where The Nation Plays’ Novices’ Chase in which Champ and Black Op are the principals.