Another quality day of jumps racing to savour on Saturday where Mister Malarky is my selection in the historic Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury. Also at Newbury Chesterfield can gain a deserved success while Epatante bids to put a poor run behind her in the Intermediate hurdle. Elsewhere Buveur D’Air has what looks like a penalty kick in the Fighting Fifth and Top Ville Ben can land the Rehearsal Chase.
Newbury Handicap Hurdle
Dan McGrue has shown improved form since having a wind-op and toughed it out well at Plumpton. A seven-pound hike is fair but I think it’s enough to stop him from winning.
The smart ex-flat performer The Cashel Man took four starts to win over hurdles but did so in good style at Ffos Las. This is the toughest race he’ll run in but could be the type that runs better in this hotter company.
Another horse with a chance from the Nicky Henderson yard is Downtown Getaway who was pitched into Grade 1 company on just his third hurdles run behind Champ at Aintree. Nicky must hold him in very high regards and looks like the graded horse in a handicap.
Of the bigger priced horses, Star Of Lanka is of definite interest having just emptied late on at Sandown in November. That was his first run following a wind-op and Ben Jones is a shrewd jockey booking.
Selection: Downtown Getaway
Epatante was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2019 Cheltenham festival when finishing ninth in the Mares’ novice hurdle at 15/8. The ex-French import had been impressive on both Brittish starts coming into the festival but never really looked like winning and faded up the hill. I can always forgive a horse one bad run and she’s the right favourite.
Once a mare starts improving it can hard to asses their level and Elvis Mail is a prime example. She was third in a Grade 2 last season and was a very easy winner on handicap/seasonal debut. A mark of 138 looks lenient and she’ll make the favourite work having probably shown more collateral form.
Antunes has always been held in high regard by connection and get it together to win easily at Wetherby. He’ll need to improve again to shoulder his penalty and I have my doubts that he will.
Selection: Elvis Mail
Ladbrokes Trophy Chase
No horse has won this staying chase carrying more than 11-06 since “The Tank” Denman ten years ago and he was the exception. Bearing that in mind I’m going to rule out the first four in the weights. There have only been two winners aged nine and above in the last twenty years so that gets rid of another eight runners including ante-post favourite Ok Corral.
That still leaves us with twelve horses to whittle down excluding the reserve. It normally takes a horse with a touch of class to win this so I’m going to narrow the search down to horses rated 149 upwards and we are left with De Rasher Counter, On The Blind Side and Mister Malarky.
Of those, I’ve always held the opinion that On The Blind Side is a bit soft and I can’t have him in a race like this. It could be a big weekend for Emma Lavelle and De Rasher Counter has a nice profile having won at the track last season but I do have questions about hos stamina which is enough to put me off.
So we are down to one horse and that’s Mister Malarky from the Colin Tizzard yard who’s won this twice out of the last three years. They have enlisted the services of “crack” conditional Jonjo O’Neill and the horse had what I hope was a pipe-opener at Ascot earlier in the month. He’s fourth in the RSA reads well and he’ll do for me.
Selection: Mister Malarky
Newbury Handicap Chase
Magic Saint was a smart type in France and although he’s only won once on Brittish soil, he’s run some big races in defeat including when fifth at Cheltenham earlier in the month. He got dropped a pound for that run and should be better over this shorter trip.
Nicky’s Whatswrongwithyou is now two from five over fences and wasn’t beaten far in the Grand Annual and Red Rum chase. He’s yet to win on seasonal debut on the track and there will be other days with him.
The horse I like in here is Chesterfield who rarely runs a bad race., come here in form having finished just behind Hell’s Kitchen at Carlisle. Jerry McGrath has ridden him once before and he looks a great each-way bet.
Selection: Chesterfield – E/W
Fighting Fifth Hurdle
Buveur D’Air has farmed this race of late with Nicky’s charge chasing a hat-trick of victories in this Grade 1. The dual Champion Hurdler lost his crown when falling in the Champion Hurdle last season but bounced back to form at Punchestown. I don’t think we’ll find out much in this race with quite a poor entry but he’ll surely win again.
The only horse with a realistic chance of toppling the favourite on ratings is Silver Streak who comes in here with the benefit of a run. He ran a cracker to finish third in the Champion and is a horse on an upward curve.
Of the others, Lady Buttons is admirable but lacks the class to win a race like this and although the French import Zambella should improve for a recent Brittish debut similar comments apply.
Selection: Buveur D’Air
Kilfilum Cross has been through his fair share of trainers in his lifetime but Henry Oliver seems to be getting a “good tune” out of the now eight-year-old. He finished runner-up in the Kim Muir last season and off just a three-pound higher mark he finished third over an inadequate trip on seasonal debut and should go well.
Lake View Lad’s form figures around Newcastle read “1211” including a victory in this very race last season. Life will be tougher off fifteen pounds higher put the Newcastle factor may outweigh that negative.
I have a particular soft spot for Top Ville Ben who wears his heart on his sleeve every time he runs and brings some very strong form into the race. He finished only six lengths behind now Gold Cup favourite Losintranslation in a Grade 1 at Aintree last season and would have needed the run in the Charlie Hall most recently.
We’ve only seen Jonniesofa three times in the last two years but when we have he’s shown a high level of form, including when winning impressively at Ayr. This will be the toughest assignment he’s faced but shouldn’t be underestimated.
Selection: Top Ville Ben