Another tremendous day on Saturday, and at this time of year we are certainly spoiled with the volume of good jump racing. The feature race of the day is the inaugural running of the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (which is a renamed Hennessey Gold Cup). Outside of the Grand National, this race is (in my opinion) the most prestigious staying chase handicap of the season. The best horses that win this are capable of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
I’ve had some good luck in this race over the years, and I’ve tipped recent winners Smad Place in 2015 and Native River in 2016. Both were short in the betting market, and generally you should not look further than 10/1 for the winner. However, this year I am going out on a limb and will be wagering on a horse that’s been at odds longer than 40/1 for most of this week, and that is Missed Approach - a horse that I selected and wagered on for this race on 15th September.
Back then in September I was re-watching the Cheltenham Festival races, looking for clues, and (again) I thought that the 4-mile NH Chase provided some of the best novice chase form seen at the Festival.Having disputed the lead for most of that race, MISSED APPROACH was looking like a potential winner coming to 3-out where he lost the lead there to the eventual winner Tiger Roll. He then resolutely stayed-on to be 2nd (with A Genie In Abottle well behind in 5th). The following month he confirmed that 4-mile wasn't his trip when he ran next in the Scottish National. As such, I think he will relish a return to the 3m2f of Saturday’s race run at Newbury.
He comes into this race on OR145 and when you consider he slammed Label Des Obeaux over 3-miles at level weights last January - and Label Des Obeaux went on to win a Class 2, 3-mile novice chase handicap on Scottish National day at Ayr and is now rated OR153 - you can see how well MISSED APPROACH is handicapped - he could easily be 10lb well-in on OR145. Interestingly, MISSED APPROACH won a 3-mile hurdle race at Newbury's "Hennessey" meeting back in 2015 and I think this race - the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (handicap) - is tailor-made for the horse. We know he likes Newbury, goes well fresh (had a pipe-opener over hurdles recently), stays the trip well, and he's well handicapped: what more can you ask for? Well, he has the very capable Richard Johnson booked for the ride, and that must be worth a few pounds advantage. Trainer Warren Greatrex has aimed the horse at this race and this will be his “Gold Cup”.
What of the opposition? I don’t expect Coneygree to recapture old glories in this race, along with Whisper he’s a bit long in the tooth. If American wins this off OR157 on his seasonal debut then he’s a viable Gold Cup contender, but I don’t think he is, and he possibly needs to find over 7lb of improvement to win. The race fell well for Carole’s Destrier last year (when 2nd) and that may not happen again. Label Des Obeaux is poorly handicapped according to his own trainer, and I’m not confident that A Genie In Abottle has the stamina for this race. The Mullins trained Total Recall is far too short in the betting for what he’s done, I’d be looking for 12/1 plus about him.
A couple of horses that you cannot ignore are Cogry and Singlefarmpayment, with the latter now 5lb better-off for the 4-length defeat when they met at Cheltenham. Personally, I reckon that Cogry should maintain the advantage, as Singlefarmpayment seems to want everything to fall right to win. However, Sam Twiston-Davies isn't in the saddle on Cogry, and he was thought to be the reason behind the horse jumping better LTO. The other horse that I like the look of is Pleasant Man who won the "Badger" LTO and comes here in top form. Vyta Du Roc was 6th in this race last season off OR143 and is 3lb lower this time, but I just think he needs marathon trips to show his best nowadays.
Overall, I think this years race looks a bit below par, and I am more than happy to take on the market leaders who appear to be there mainly on reputation - be it past or perceived - and not on true merit. The only horse under 10/1 that I can consider betting on is Singlefarmpayment, but he just does not give me the right feeling. I'm already on MISSED APPROACH at 66/1 antepost, and the preparation has gone just as I expected - in fact, it's better as I never expected Richard Johnson to be in the saddle. Fingers crossed it will be a winning combination.