Tony Calvin: My early thoughts on the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase
The big races come thick and fast at this time of the year and the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase - formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup - is the big one this weekend, and here with his ante-post preview is our big-price tipster Tony Calvin...
"Two defeats at the hands of Might Bite at Cheltenham and Aintree probably warranted a higher rating than 157, decent ground is fine for him, and this course, and Grade 1 hurdles, winner is set to run a huge race. The 10/1 on the exchange is very fair."
I have been lured in by a couple of favourites in big-field Saturday handicaps in recent weeks, but those failures have at least rid me of that safety-first approach - my records tell me that I am shocking when tipping at the front of the market - and Total Recall certainly isn't floating my boat at around [6.0] in the Ladbrokes Trophy at 15:00 on Saturday.
Now, it is easy to see why he is the jolly, as he appeared to - well, he didn't appear to, he did - put up a much-improved performance on his first start for Willie Mullins last month when running away with the Munster National at Limerick. And the fact that he went off the 2/1 favourite there suggested the victory wasn't exactly a massive surprise.
The runner-up Alpha Des Obeaux won a Grade 2 by 5½ lengths last time, so it doesn't take a genius to work out why he is favoured by the layers.
But he went up 18lb for that win (though at least the English handicapper hasn't given him an extra 2lb, as he usually does with Irish horses coming over) and the ground has to be a concern.
It is currently good to soft at Newbury, with no rain forecast this week by the weather experts - no sniggering at the back, please - and that is not a positive for this mud-lover. All his best form has come on soft ground, or worse, so far.
The prospect of good to soft ground, maybe even good, will also have the connections of other fancied horses worrying, too.
Second favourite American's three wins last season came on soft and Harry Fry is always at pains to point out how fragile this horse is, so it won't be ideal for him, and dual course winner Coneygree would also like a shower or seven, too.
Whisper's price worth shouting about
The solid ones for me at the top of the market are Singlefarmpayment at [8.60] and Whisper at [11.0].
I get the impression that the former wasn't fully tuned up first time out when second to Cogry at Cheltenham, so they will have been delighted by that run, if not the 1lb rise for being beaten 4 lengths.
He looks sure to run his race but it could well be that Whisper is the pick of the weights, even with his 4lb penalty for winning a match on his return.
His ½ length defeat of Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton looks even better in the light of the runner-up's Haydock win last week, and the merit of Whisper's novice chase form is there for all to see.
Two defeats at the hands of Might Bite at Cheltenham and Aintree probably warranted a higher rating than 157, decent ground is fine for him, and this course, and Grade 1 hurdles, winner is set to run a huge race. The 10/1 on the exchange is very fair.
Solid market support for Roc
There have been nibbles around for A Genie In Abottle in recent days, and he showed he can perform on decent ground when third to Disko in a Grade 1 at Punchestown in April.
His two soft-ground wins this season have proved he has come back better than ever - he beat the Troytown winner Maia Beach at Galway last month - and he is a player.
My old buddy Vyta Du Roc has a big handicap in him if he can put in an error-free round. That's a fair if, though.
I tipped him in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April, and when he flashed past the post I swear he had won. I was at the course, watching out front, and I couldn't believe it when he was named second.
There are two winning lines at the course, so I was probably looking at the wrong one. I may not have been alone though, as his jockey - who was also gobsmacked when the result was announced - admitted riding to the wrong line afterwards.
Off just a 2lb higher mark and with a recent hurdles run under his belt, he interests me a lot once again.
I am not alone though, as all the 14/1 in the marketplace has disappeared while I have been writing this, and he is also into [13.0] on the exchange. And those two facts are probably not unrelated.
Childrens heading my betting List
If you are looking for an outsider maybe Childrens List at [40.0] and upwards. Definitely maybe, in fact.
I don't know if he is an intended runner and the English handicapper has given him an extra 3lb to carry, which is nice of him.
But the horse is unexposed over fences after just the three chase starts, and they included a promising second on his return over an extended 2m3f.
That was clearly an inadequate test of stamina for a horse that won over 3m1f+ on his penultimate start, and conditions could be ideal for him here.
He has two soft-ground wins on his dance card, and his best efforts so far have come on a testing surface, but Patrick Mullins in on record as saying he is a "real good-ground horse" and 3m2f on a left-handed track could suit the horse perfectly.
The English handicapper may have dealt his winning claims a hammer blow with that 3lb rise, - and he may not even turn up at Newbury - but I really like his profile and he definitely looks overpriced at 40/1+ on the exchange.
I was seriously toying with tipping him here and now, but decided to wait and see what Thursday's 10am declarations bring.
At the moment though, he is at the top of my betting list for the race.