One of the Ladbrokes Trophy's smallest fields lines up at Newbury on Saturday, representing a tricky betting puzzle for horse racing bettors.
Known for donkeys years as the Hennessy Gold Cup, the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy is a 3m2f handicap that has been won by scores of Cheltenham Gold Cup winners.
Several top the Ladbrokes Trophy betting, perhaps some with potential of becoming the latest to complete that Newbury-Cheltenham Festival double.
There are many. It might be best to start with Elegant Escape (9/2 Bet365), and Thomas Patrick (5/1 Ladbrokes) who dominated the finish of the Future Stars Chase at Sandown on their return. Elegant Escape won at this meeting last year, when getting the better of Black Corton, and was third in both the championship novice chases at Cheltenham and Aintree. He looks a natural contender.
Thomas Patrick took apart the field in a valuable handicap chase at Aintree on Grand National Day and was just beaten in receipt of 2lbs. He’s now much better off at the weights, and this previous course-and-distance winner ought to be well-suited to this jumping test, making him a worthy Ladbrokes Trophy favourite.
Youth has definitely been an advantage. As the benchmark for most second-season chasers, it’s no surprise that many of the very best contenders are younger horses.
In the last 15 years there has only been one occasion when the winner wasn’t aged eight or younger – and that was Denman, who produced one of the all-time great performances in the race to take his second Ladbrokes Trophy.
Be sure to look out for last-time-out runs at either Aintree or Cheltenham (six winners from Cheltenham, two from Aintree), and pay close attention to weight - 12 horses have carried more than 10-13 in the last 15 years.
The market can be a helpful pointer too – in the last 15 years, the average winner has had a 9/1 average starting price. That said, beware of the favourites – several have been unplaced in recent years.
Ms Parfois (5/1 William Hill) was also a winner at Newbury last season, taking a Mares’ Novices' Chase, before ending the season with two terrific seconds, the first in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and the second in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase. The Ladbrokes Trophy has been the target for a long time now and she has got a fine racing weight.
Following an eye-catching return over hurdles here, Dingo Dollar (15/2 BetVictor, paying 4 places) has been well-supported and Alan King’s charge was just caught in the Novices' Championship Handicap Chase off a mark of 143. He may not have stopped progressing just yet.
Black Corton (12/1 Ladbrokes, 4 places) was second in the Charlie Hall Chase after jockey Bryony Frost somehow managed to stay on following a huge mistake early on. He dominated much of the novice chase scene early last season and is closely matched with Elegant Escape, although he might be too exposed now.
American (12/1 Betway, 4 places) was hotly fancied for last year’s renewal, but disappointed that day. Only seen twice since, he was well-beaten in a chase at Cheltenham in January, and then in the Gold Cup. One wonders if the ground will be soft enough for him in the Ladbrokes Trophy. However, he is still unexposed, and the 5lbs Aine O’Connor takes off his back could be crucial.
The Young Master (11/1 BetVictor, 4 places) has bounced back to form with two impressive wins this season at Chepstow and Cheltenham, and at the foot of the weights, catches the eye.
Sizing Tennessee (16/1 Paddy Power, 4 places) was third in the 4m National Hunt Chase, then won really well on his reappearance at Fontwell this season. That was a good prize to pick up, but perhaps he has used up his best mark? His form does remain very useful.
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