The Newbury card is obviously headlined by the Ladbrokes Trophy, and I’ve already put up Mister Malarky as my main fancy for the big race earlier in the week. My other recommended bet in that preview was Yala Enki, but little of the forecast midweek rain actually arrived, and with the ground likely to be Good To Soft, his chances have perhaps receded – although let’s hope he pleasantly surprises us. But where one door closes, another opens, and the better ground does present a big opportunity for Alan King’s DINGO DOLLAR. Third last year off a higher mark on unfavoured soft ground, and still just seven years old, this race has always been the target, something that can’t be said for all the other runners towards the top of the weights. King has his horses bang in form, and I have to recommend a saver.
But in my view there is some value in another two races at Newbury:
1:15 Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase 2m6f
Four potentially excellent up-and-coming horses have managed to get into this 0-145 contest, and given how much better than the rest some of these may turn out to be, that’s where my attention will lie.
JERRYSBACK showed some impressive form as a novice over this sort of trip before being (slightly oddly) entered in the Cheltenham four-miler. If that pretty horrendous experience didn’t bottom him out he would have real claims here off a mark of 145, but he was mediocre first time out last season and may be seen to better effect later in the season, especially given his owner’s penchance for managing his horses’ marks.
ROCKY’S TREASURE’s novice form wasn’t quite as high-class, but his best run did come around Newbury in December when he got within four lengths of Santini, the eventual RSA runner-up. A run of that quality would bring him into considerations, but at eight years old and with 18 rules starts under his belt, he might not be as progressive as some of the others.
LARRY races here off a mark of just 142, and it would be surprising if that proved to be the peak of his progress as a chaser. Gary Moore has always rated him highly, and he was sent off at just 10/1 for the graded Sodexo Gold Cup just a month ago. That was a curious outing, with Jamie Moore never getting the six-year-old involved in the thick of the action, meaning this race may have been the plan all along; his shrewd trainer will have noted that Larry’s best RPR last season came at Newbury.
Having said that, this race also looks the perfect opportunity for HIGHWAY ONE O ONE. Regular readers of this blog – if indeed there are any – will know that I love this horse, but you can’t get too sentimental in this game and I passed over backing him at Cheltenham in his last run. That was for two reasons: firstly, he isn’t at his best on soft ground; secondly, that was an immensely hot race. Neither of those factors come into play here. In my mind, Newbury will suit this bold jumper, and this may be the race where Chris Gordon’s pride and joy finally fulfils his huge potential. Gordon is enjoying a good season, with his chasers +10.88 so far, so Highway One O One rates a strong selection.
2:25 Ladbrokes “Where The Nation Plays” Intermediate Hurdle
Put simply, if EPATANTE actually was suffering the ill-effects of her ‘flu jab in the Mares Novices’ at Cheltenham – a Grade 2 race for which she was sent off 15/8 favourite, let’s not forget – then she wins this race off a mark of just 137. If she’s simply not quite as good as Nicky Henderson thinks she is, then there are more than enough decent horses in this race to beat her. At the price I will happily pay to find out.
Recommended Bets (Newbury):
1:15 Highway One O One 1.5pts e/w 10/1 (5 places)
2:25 Epatante 2pts win 4/1
3:00 Dingo Dollar 0.5pts win 14/1
(Already Advised Mister Malarky win & Yala Enki e/w)