One of the most eagerly anticipated handicaps of the jump season, the Ladbrokes Trophy has an illustrious role of honour and the betting is headed by Ok Corral, who bids to give Nicky Henderson a third win in eight years. He has never hidden the regard in which he holds this son of Mahler and if he’s to be shaping up into a Grade 1 player in open company, then he should be able to be defy his mark of 151.
Last years runner up, Elegant Escape, heads the weights but it’ll be no easy task off 160. De Rasher Counter and Borice are both horses on the up, while it’s interesting that Willie Mullins has taken the same route with Cabaret Queen as he did with his 2017 winner Total Recall, winning the Munster National before a tilt at the Newbury showpiece.
Buveur D’Air will be aiming for history in being just the third horse to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle on three occasions. The dual Champion Hurdler has a rating of 167 and his closest rival is Silver Streak at 154, so on paper, Henderson’s charge should be winning this with plenty in hand.
Named after the legendary champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, Champ has been living up to his name so far with a couple of Grade 1 wins on his CV. A near faultless chasing debut at Newbury has set him up for a return to the venue in Grade 2 company as he’s entered in the 2m4f contest on Friday as well as the 3m event on Saturday. As he seems to have produced his best runs over the latter trip, the longer contest would likely be the most favourable target, but he could easily pitch up on Friday instead.
Reserve Tank and Vision Des Flos are also entered in both contests, as well as the classy Black Op in the Berkshire Novices’ Chase on Friday.
The Long Distance Hurdle will see the return of Emma Lavelle’s staying star, Paisley Park. He’ll have some worthy opponents in the shape of previous winners Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry in what should be an informative contest.
After the impressive win of expensive purchase The Big Breakaway last week, there’s another couple to keep an eye on this week. The first is Joseph O’Brien’s Dlauro, who costing a whopping £410,000 after winning his Point To Point and has subsequently been sold privately to JP McManus having won his bumper in commanding style. He’s entered in the 1.10pm at Punchestown on Tuesday.
Another in the green and gold silks is Chantry House, who cost slightly less, but still an eye-watering £295,000. Having won a bumper in good style, he’s entered to make his hurdling debut in either the 12.15pm at Newbury on Friday or the 2.40pm at Newcastle on Saturday.
On Sunday, Fairyhouse plays host to three Grade 1’s. Firstly, the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle which has had the likes of Jezki and Nichols Canyon crossing the line in front in recent times. The extremely exciting Gordon Elliott trio of Envoi Allen, Andy Dufresne and Abacadabras are all entered.
Generally aiming his top prospects at the race, Gordon Elliott has won the Drinmore Novice Chase with No More Heroes, Death Duty and Delta Work in three of the past four years. Samcro may well be his leading hope this season, but Willie Mullins is not short of challengers with Faugheen, Melon and Tornado Flyer all in contention.
Finally we have the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, won the past three years by the superb Apple’s Jade. She’ll have to bounce back from a disappointing reappearance effort to win this seasons renewal and with her Navan conquerer Bacardys in the mix as well as Benie Des Dieux, Klassical Dream, Penhill, the hugely exciting Honeysuckle as well as 2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John, Elliott’s ten-time Grade 1 winning mare will have to be at her brilliant best.
Kalashnikov – 1.50pm Newbury (Friday)
Grade 1 winner last season and left-handed track suits him ideally. Lack of fences not ideal in the Old Roan Chase and has the same mark here; capable of defying top weight as he’s the class of the race.
Paisley Park – 3.00pm Newbury (Friday)
Star of the staying division last season. Up and coming still, comfortably beat Unowhatimeanharry last season, is well clear of The Worlds End on ratings and Thistlecrack is likely using this as a prep race for the King George.
Ok Corral – 3.00pm Newbury (Saturday)
Perhaps slightly inexperienced for this race but has plenty of talent and looks up to Grade 1 standard; jumps well and has plenty of scope off a mark of 151.
Honeysuckle – 2.40pm Fairyhouse (Sunday)
Unbeaten mare looks a future star and even though this would be by far her toughest test to date, she looks up to it now and is 4 from 4 over the course and distance.
*odds best available at the time of writing