Saturday, as always, brings an abundance of high class racing. Newbury’s Winter Carnival continues with their showpiece of the weekend the Ladbroke Trophy taking place today and Newcastle host the Fighting Fifth. It’s a busy day of racing and we’ll put up an insight for each of the 7 races that are televised on ITV.
The opening race for the ITV fixtures is a 2.5 mile handicap hurdle. It’s a good class 2 affair and Downtown Getaway is currently the favourite. He’s become a very short price for this encounter so I’ve gone looking elsewhere for value and landed on DAN MCGRUE.
Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden had a quiet day yesterday despite having a few good runners. They bring Dan McGrue to this encounter off the back of an impressive win at Plumpton 26 days ago. He beat Acey Milan and Air Horse One that day who have both come out and run well since. Acey Milan was just held late into 2nd in the grade 3 Stayers’ hurdle at Haydock whereas Air Horse One won a class 3 handicap by 30 lengths under top weight. The form has had a couple of immediate good boosts and he appears to be holding Mr Pumblechook on form despite a 7lb rise in the weights. He’s shown some smart form this season and has won and come 2nd already. He’s showing an upward curve following a wind op and it feels like a good time to keep him onside. He’ll be happier for some cut in the ground and with showing some good class to beat subsequent good runners I really fancy him to go close again.
Main highlighted dangers in the field will be The Cashel Man and Nordic Combined but I fancy Dan McGrue to hit the frame and maybe even better.
It’s barely even a race with Buveur D’air heading the market at a stupid price. He may have looked vulnerable last season but class is permanent. I don’t particularly want to take him on and I don’t want to back him. He’s had spine surgery over the summer so it might be interesting to see what sort of shape he’s making over his hurdles. It’s a race best watched to see if he’s up for tackling the champion hurdle again. By all means he should win this with his head in his chest doing back flips but if you want some value Silver Streak in the without Buveur D’air market is about 5/6 and is some good value to chase Nicky Henderson’s star hurdler home.
Another muddling handicap to try and get past to keep a place pot alive as 11 runners take to this 2 mile handicap hurdle. I’m going to stick with the class in the field and go with CHRISTOPHER WOOD.
The 4 year old was running in some hot races last year and finished behind Pentland Hills and Fakir D’oudaries at Aintree. His handicap mark of 140 does look quite stiff but I think his class should hopefully tell in this field. There’s nothing in here of the quality of a Pentland Hills or Fussil Raffles, the latter of which the selection finished behind on his seasonal reappearance in the Elite Hurdle. It was quite a hot contest to come back too first time out after his summer break and he was well beaten back into 4th. This is however run number 2 off the back of a wind op so hopefully the procedure is at full effect and he runs to his optimum. Having placed in a grade 1 at Aintree he brings some real strong form to the table and he’s already a course and distance winner at Newbury on good to soft ground.
I had a real toss up between Christopher Wood and Antunes but 5 year olds tend to have quite a bad record in this race so 4 year old Christopher Wood gets the nod from me.
The feature race of the day and of the weekend, the Ladbrokes Trophy and I have been torn between 2 all week. MISTER MALARKY and DINGO DOLLAR have both been on my radar for this contest so I’ve had to bite the bullet and back both in the 24 runner field.
I feel it handy to make a profile for these big handicap races and it gives you a good starting point for finding a likely sort. Using 10 trends from the last 12 years Mister Malarky actually ticked every single box. He has the perfect profile and brings some smart form to the table. His yard have won this 2 out of the last 3 runnings so they know how to get one right for the contest. He’s young, stays, jumps well and has the right sort of class to do well in a good quality race. Class seems to really tell in this and a minimum mark of 148 seems to be the benchmark for doing well. Having some graded back form helps too and the Colin Tizzard entrant ticks every box. Even more interesting is Jonjo O’Neill Jr. takes over in the saddle and claims a handy 3lbs off his back.
Moving over to Dingo Dollar and he was actually my ante post punt in the race as I took 20/1 on Tuesday night. He’s now half that and I’m mentally spending my money as he too ticks a lot of those profile boxes I mentioned. He was also 3rd in this race last year and finds himself 2lbs lower in the handicap for this renewal. He looks well handicapped and had good warm up spin over hurdles at Newbury recently. He finished 3rd that day behind the progressive Diablo De Rouhet which I think is actually quite good form going into this.
As always it’s a top class competitive race, I nailed the winner last year with Sizing Tennessee so let’s hope for some good fortune again this year.
Another difficult handicap to pick through but I quite like TOP VILLE BEN to make his mark on the handicap scene. He made his seasonal return in the Charlie Hall chase and wasn’t disgraced in 5th. It’s a worthy grade 2 race and he may have found it a shade too hot for his first outing of the campaign.
Dropping back to a listed chase will suit him more as he was chasing home some good sorts last season like Lostintranslation in the Mildmay novices’ chase. A handicap mark of 151 looks more than exploitable for a horse of his class and going into his first handicap as a chaser. He gets 3 miles well, handles cut in the ground and is clearly well thought of by his stable as he contested the RSA at Cheltenham last season. This is potentially the most competitive race on the Newcastle card so it’s not my most confident punt of the day. Phil Kirby has some decent ammo going to Newcastle today so I expect his runners to be fully tuned up and ready to put in some big performances.
Main dangers for me are Captain Chaos for the Skelton yard and Lake View Lad. The latter ran a cracker in the Ultima behind Beware the Bear and comes in here off top weight. The former of the 2 ran a creditable race in the Kim Muir and keeps looking well handicapped to go well in this sort of contest. I may experiment with a few forecasts and tricasts with the 3 mentioned.
Rounding out a day of each way punts at Newbury and I’m drawn to top weight in the final contest, BUN DORAN.
He was my pick for the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham festival and was edged out by 66/1 12 year old Croco Bay. Anger and tears aside he comes in for this contest only 2lbs higher in the handicap but with a 7lb claimer on board to try and negate the fact he’s top weight. He has some really good back class form and dropping to a class 2 looks likely to suit him. He ran a barnstormer on his seasonal return last year and won a class 2 by a tidy 8 lengths. He handles almost any ground, goes well fresh and is clearly the best horse in this field. He does look well worth an each way punt to hit the frame. With nothing else really catching my eye closer to the top of the market I’ve settled with looking for the value and 13/2 looks plenty big enough to get stuck into.
The only other horse that mildly interested me was Ashoka for the Skelton’s but the rise in the weights for 2 good class 3 wins and a move up to class 2 on seasonal reappearance looks to be a bit of a stretch for the 7 year old.