Elegant Escape headlines 23 five-day acceptors for the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury this Saturday, the highlight of day two of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
Elegant Escape (Colin Tizzard, 11st 7lb including a 4lb penalty) gained a half-length victory over Thomas Patrick (Tom Lacey, 11st) in the Listed Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown Park.
The six-year-old took high rank among the novice chasers last season, winning the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase at the 2017 Ladbrokes Winter Carnival before finishing third behind Presenting Percy in the RSA Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Trainer Colin Tizzard, who captured the Ladbrokes Trophy in 2016 with Native River, has also left in National Hunt Chase third Sizing Tennessee (11st) and West Approach (10st 8lb).
Six-year-old Dingo Dollar (Alan King, 11st) is set for his second start at Newbury this season after running well to finish fourth in the three-mile Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle on his November 8th reappearance.
Dingo Dollar is also already a winner of fences at Newbury, having bolted up by 15 lengths in a limited novices’ handicap chase, the St James’s Place Chase, at the track in December, 2017.
Wiltshire-based trainer Alan King, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy with Smad Place in 2015, revealed today: “Dingo Dollar is in in good form.
“I have been very happy with him since he ran over hurdles at Newbury and the Ladbrokes Trophy is definitely the plan.
“He had a school over fences last week. He is in good order and I hope there is not too much rain at Newbury for him.
“It is a big ask for him, but he is entitled to go there. We are looking forward to the race and we’ll see how he gets on.”
Dingo Dollar is set to be ridden by regular rider Wayne Hutchinson.
Paul Nicholls is looking forward to saddling Black Corton (11st 9lb) after the seven-year-old chaser finished second, despite a bad mistake, on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Emerging jockey Bryony Frost struck up an excellent partnership with Black Corton last season and the pair combined to win the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, with Elegant Escape a length and a half back in second and six other chases.
Somerset-based Nicholls, who has won the Ladbrokes Trophy three times as a trainer with Strong Flow (2003) and Denman (2007 & 2009), and twice as a jockey, commented today: “Black Corton is fine and the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday is the plan.
“I am surprised we are such a big price compared to Elegant Escape given the close form of our race at Newbury where we gave him weight and were beaten half a length. We also beat him at Kempton.
“Black Corton ran really well in the Charlie Hall, finishing second, but he has gone up 4lb for that, which hasn’t helped him.
“He is going to end up with plenty of weight for a second-season novice, which isn’t ideal because normally with a second-season novice you would expect to have a nice, tidy weight. For such a good run in the Charlie Hall, we have shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.
“He is very versatile on the ground and doesn’t mind too much. But if it is very deep, then carrying a lot of weight is not going to help.
“Bryony Frost will be on board.”
Seven of the nine Irish-trained acceptors for the Ladbrokes Trophy are from the stable of Willie Mullins as he goes for back-to-back victories in Britain’s richest handicap chase outside of the Grand National at Aintree.
Kemboy (joint top-weight 11st 12lb including 3lb penalty) gained a three-length victory in the Clonmel Oil Chase.
Ireland’s champion jump trainer could also run the 2017 victor Total Recall (11st 8lb), who has the chance to become the fourth dual winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy, and National Hunt Chase winner Rathvinden (11st 6lb).
Exciting second-season chaser Al Boum Photo (11st 11lb), Isleofhopendreams (10st 10lb) and the Graham Wylie-owned pair of Up For Review (10st 12lb) and Invitation Only (11st 4lb) complete the Mullins septet.
Fellow Irish handler Gordon Elliott is responsible for joint top-weight Don Poli (11st 12lb) and Monbeg Notorious (11st 3lb), impressive winner of the Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park in January.
Mildmay Novices’ Chase second Ms Parfois (Anthony Honeyball, 10st 12lb) has the chance to emulate Kerstin (1959), the only mare to have won the Ladbrokes Trophy, while American (Harry Fry, 11st 6lb) could have another tilt at the race, having bombed out when sent off second favourite in 2017.
The 23 confirmations are completed by rejuvenated chaser The Young Master (Neil Mulholland, 10st 5lb including 4lb penalty), Otago Trail (Venetia Williams, 11st 4lb), Beware The Bear (Nicky Henderson, 11st), Go Conquer (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 10st 13lb), Flying Angel (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 10st 8lb) and Allyson Monterg (10st 10lb, Richard Hobson).
Nicola McGeady, Head of PR for Ladbrokes, said: “We are very pleased with today’s confirmations and another enthralling renewal looks set to take centre stage on Saturday.”
Newbury’s seven-race programme on Saturday also includes the £50,000 Listed Ladbrokes Intermediate Hurdle (2.25pm), a limited handicap over two miles.
Nicky Henderson accounts for five of the 18 entries, with his team headed by Imperial Cup third Whatswrongwithyou and Champ, who has won two of his three starts over hurdles and yet to run in a handicap.
Others to note include Ballymoy (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who has won his last four including competitive handicap hurdles at Sandown Park and Chepstow, and possible Irish challenger Espoir D’Allen (Gavin Cromwell), an 11-length winner of the Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas.
Racing starts at 12.10pm and ends at 3.35pm, with live music after racing in the Long Shot Marquee from the popular Chip Shop Boys.