1.15 Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase 2m 6f 93yds
A feature of this contest has always been the dusting off of the O’Sullevan silks of black, gold cross-belts & cap, which were bequeathed by the ‘Voice of Racing’ to J. P. McManus, but make just the one appearance every year.
Another feature is the insistence that J.P. must be plotting one up for it, but the old colours have only registered a couple of placings despite multiple tries, and those looking for a plot are seemingly barking up the wrong tree (Kapcorse did win this in 2018, but carried the traditional McManus second colours).
Assuming no deterioration in the ground, the bet here looks to be Kalooki, who won over course and distance on his chase debut last season, and was placed on his other starts here. He jumps to his left and needs a flat, left-handed track to show his form, so it’s no surprise that he raises his game here. He was 12 lengths ahead of Grand Sancy when just touched off in a decent handicap here in March, and has been left on the same mark.
He may yet improve again given he’s entering his second season over fences, and it’s hard to see him out of the frame.
1.50 Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f 118yds
It’s possible that this race revolves around the good-looking and well-touted Lecale’s Article, whose debut success here last season makes him look well-handicapped, and that certainly appears to be the case based on how well he travelled at Warwick and Sandown on subsequent outings.
The problem for punters is that he appeared less than keen to hit the line in front, flashing his tail when asked to put the race to bed at Warwick, and then seemingly trying to refuse or duck out at the penultimate obstacle having made the running at Sandown.
The winner of that race went on to land a valuable and competitive event at Chepstow last month, and I don’t doubt that a mark of 125 underestimates the ability of Lecale’s Article. My question is this: how do you put a figure on his temperament? I accept that another summer may have seen Nicky Henderson iron out the kinks in Joe Donnelly’s gelding, but I’m not sure I want to pay at skinny odds to find out.
I prefer the claims of proven winner Calva D’Auge, who may be climbing towards the ceiling of his ability, but who has won his last four handicap hurdles, and has both the run style and the attitude to give himself every chance of extending that sequence.
He had two of these comfortably held at Kempton last time, and is just 3lb worse off with Annsam, who was fourth there. He gets on well with claimer Angus Cheleda, and is taken to extend his fine run.
2.25 Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Intermediate Hurdle (Listed) 2m 69yds
Rain would be a negative to the chances of Soaring Glory, but Jonjo O’Neill’s Betfair Hurdle winner looked a stronger horse when winning on his return at Ascot last month, and I think he will cope better with soft ground than he did last year. He’s a big talent, and there’s no reason to think his facile Ascot success should be his limit by any means.
I would be surprised if he isn’t up to winning a Champion Hurdle Trial, with either the International or the Christmas Hurdle next month looking possible targets for the handsome son of Fame And Glory.
Gowel Road is a horse I like, and he won well in a similar contest at Cheltenham last time. That appears to give him strong claims, but I thought he benefited from the step up to two miles, five furlongs at Cheltenham, and although he won twice over course and distance last season, he had to fight for those wins having looked beaten both times.
His battling attitude means he can’t be ruled out, but he looks vulnerable to a horse with a genuine turn of foot at the minimum trip, and if he tries to make this a test, he may find he’s merely setting it up for the selection, who is well suited by a strong pace, and able to quicken at the end of his races.
3.00 Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f 214yds
I must start my analysis of the big race with a rant. Bookmakers are now obsessed with offering each-way terms in big handicaps which are over-generous as a means of touting for business, but while they are attractive in themselves, the fact that a race as important as the Ladbrokes Trophy sees firms betting to over 150% on the win book is a massive turn-off for many punters.
When I back a horse to win a race like this, I’m not looking forward to booming a small profit when my selection trails home 50 lengths behind the winner. Woohoo, seven places!
So, enough of that nonsense, and on to the race. I was tempted by one or two outsiders before the inevitable clipping of odds on Friday, with The Hollow Ginge capable of improving on last season’s fourth after a more assured round of jumping at Cheltenham on his latest start.
Demachine impressed me as a novice, and he looks a good bet to turn round the Reynoldstown form with Remastered in this bigger field, and he is my second pick in this contest.
I may get involved with that one on the day, but one horse is a bigger price than he should be with the fixed odds firms despite the overrounds, and that is the top-class prospect Eklat De Rire.
Henry de Bromhead is a genius with staying chasers as he showed last season, and Eklat De Rire (from the French éclat de rire, meaning a burst of laughter) looked good when beating National Hunt Chase third Escaria Ten in a Grade 3 at Naas, and he was travelling powerfully when unseating Rachael Blackmore in the Brown Advisory won by Monkfish.
I was taken by the way he continued in the race without his rider, seeming to enjoy a battle with Monkfish before bounding past the post in front, albeit sans jockey.
That came on good to soft ground, and while his wins have come on heavy, including on his return at Wexford in a race won last year by Minella Indo, I’m confident that underfoot conditions at Newbury won’t stop him winning.
It’s arguably a blessing in disguise that he failed to finish at Cheltenham, as it leaves him on a lenient mark for this, and he looks well up to defying a big weight.
3.35 Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes Handicap Chase (For The Jim Joel Memorial Trophy) 2m 92yds
A tough race to finish, but it may be worth taking a chance on Ashutor, who has a much better chance than odds of 66/1 would imply.
A dual winner over fences for Paul Nicholls last season, he was rated 139 when running well in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham. He held every chance turning for home that day, but was yet another horse to fall foul of the second-last fence, pecking on landing and losing impetus, before fading up the hill.
Sold in the summer, he has fallen to a mark of 132, and is more than capable of winning from his current mark given last season’s exploits.
He makes his debut for Sophie Leech here, and while he may lack for fitness, he was entered up at Cheltenham’s October meeting, which suggests he’s forward enough, assuming he’s not had a setback.
Kalooki 1.15 Newbury – 1pt e/w @ 11/2 (Hills, Betfair – 4 places)
Calva D’Auge 1.50 Newbury – 1pt win @ 13/2 (general)
Eklat De Rire 3.00 Newbury – 2pts e/w @ 9/2 (SkyBet, Hills – 7 places)
Ashutor 3.35 Newbury – 0.5pts e/w @ 66/1 (Hills, BetVictor, Paddy Power – 4 places)