This Saturday, Alan Thomson fancies an Irish raider in the feature race at Newbury
CABARET QUEEN (3.00) may have been let in quite lightly and Willie Mullins is keen on her chances in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury.
Mullins scooped this prestigious prize, formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup, with Total Recall two years ago, Ireland’s first success since Bright Highway in 1980 (and only their second since Arkle in 1965). Cabaret Queen came home an easy winner of the Munster National on soft ground at Limerick last month and is preferred over Mullins’ other contender Yorkhill. Gordon Elliott bolsters the Irish challenge with Galway Plate winner Borice, nicely weighted on 10st 13lb now returning from minor wind surgery.
Colin Tizzard has won two of the past three renewals with Native River and Sizing Tennessee, and saddles a quartet headed by last year’s runner-up Elegant Escape, wearing first-time blinkers. There has been significant support all week for stablemate Mister Malarky but he has something to prove after flopping on his comeback run at Ascot four weeks ago.
Nicky Henderson is also armed with four runners, including likely favourite Ok Corral. His gelding was last seen pulling up under atrocious conditions in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in March but had earlier mopped up novice chases at Plumpton and Warwick. Ok Corral was a useful hurdler, chasing home Kilbricken Castle in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, and should be thereabouts along with stable companion On The Blind Side. Strong stayer Yala Enki has his first start for Paul Nicholls and is the yard’s sole representative.
With 16 runners declared for the 2m 4f handicap hurdle there is scope for each-way betting and DAN McGRUE (1.50) is fancied to go close for the Nicholls yard. He has always promised to develop into a smart horse and put favourite Acey Milan in his place at Plumpton, despite compromising his chance with a slow leap at the last flight. His breathing operation seems to have been successful and with William Hill going five places each-way, he has to be the bet. Henderson saddles one of his market rivals, Downtown Getaway, and this ex-Irish gelding is still lightly raced and open to improvement.
Nicholls and Henderson are vying for favouritism in the Ladbrokes Handicap Chase with Magic Saint and Whatswrongwithyou respectively, but the each-way vote goes to CHESTERFIELD (3.40). A former winner of the Scottish Champion Hurdle, Chesterfield ran with distinction in several big handicap hurdles before a belated switch to fences. He beat Dell Oro in a Beginners’ Chase at Kempton last November and his second to useful Hell’s Kitchen in a Graduation Chase at Carlisle should have put him spot-on for this assignment.
Lake View Lad won last year’s Betfair Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle but is 17lb higher in the ratings following a highly successful campaign. He should go well if tuned up for his comeback, as should KILFILUM CROSS (3.20), the grey having had the benefit of a run at Stratford 30 days ago when third to Rocco. Henry Oliver’s grey ran a stormer in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham festival, leading on the home bend before being caught by Any Second Now.