Paisley Park the main attraction on card with proven record of producing stars
Paisley Park, a son of Oscar who produced some award-winning performances when a shining light of the 2018-19 campaign, tops the bill as he makes his seasonal return on a card that tees up Newbury perfectly for its most important date of the winter.
There are not many handicaps in Britain more prestigious than the Ladbrokes Trophy, but the race that used to be known as the Hennessy can be chilled for 24 hours.
Instead, much of the focus will be on Paisley Park, a seven-year-old who has emerged through the handicap ranks to become the sport's premier staying hurdler.
Victory in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last year was a first at the highest grade for trainer Emma Lavelle and jockey Aidan Coleman, and things got even better when he charged home in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on a memorable afternoon for his enthusiastic owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth.
Paisley Park's route back to the Cotswolds begins in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle (3.00) against Unowhatimeanharry, who struck in the race last year and in 2016, and Thistlecrack, successful 12 months before that.
Beer Goggles, who triumphed at a whopping 40-1 in 2017 when trained by the late Richard Woollacott, is also in action after 671 days on the sidelines.
The Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Novices' Chase (2.25) has a rich history, having been won by future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Coneygree, Bobs Worth and Denman, who will be honoured at the track at 11.15am on Friday by the opening of a set of gates named after the dual Hennessy hero.
It is not out of the question Champ comes back for the main event next year, but he appears the one to beat in the Grade 2 after a near-flawless hurdling career and polished course debut over fences this month.
A seemingly revitalised Black Op might not let the seven-year-old - named after legendary 20-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy - have things all his own way, however.
ITV4 also screens an up-to-scratch edition of the Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase (1.50) from Newbury, where racegoers can get into the festive spirit with free carousel rides.
The £50,000 contest has drawn a 12-strong field of seasoned chasers and Kalashnikov and Glen Forsa, who both unseated in the Racing Post Arkle, are to the fore of the betting with perhaps a little more upside than some of their older rivals.
The Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle (3.35) closes the card and ITV4's coverage and could prove the toughest puzzle to solve with 18 runners lining up, although Dolphin Square, whose owner David Maxwell will be on board, might have an edge.
He is due a post-race 6lb rise in the ratings, which could be significant, but Maxwell, riding arguably better than ever, will take little for granted.
Those on track, and those settling for the sofa with Racing TV or streaming, will not want to miss the maiden hurdle (12.15), which counts two-time Champion Hurdle ace Buveur D'Air and Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup fancy Lostintranslation among its recent winners.
Participants include Son Of Camas, a taking Newbury bumper winner at the last meeting for Buveur D'Air's trainer Nicky Henderson, King Roland, who has a tall reputation at Harry Fry's Dorset operation, and Ask For Glory, who part-owner Paul Barber reckons could one day be a Gold Cup horse. As a man who owned Denman, he should know.
Eyes also need to be peeled for the novice hurdle at 1.20, which two years ago went to the Henderson-trained Santini, who, if everything goes to plan at Seven Barrows, could also be in the Gold Cup picture come the spring.
Henderson bids to win it again with Grand Mogul and It Sure Is - a pair he thinks plenty of - while Sevarano might just be the most talented horse in Oliver Sherwood's Grand National-winning yard.
The Lostintranslation silks - important to owners Paul Taylor and Richard O'Dwyer as they remember Taylor's son Charlie who died aged three in 2015 - make an appearance as well via Faustinovick, a Black Sam Bellamy gelding with solid point-to-point form who was given a glowing reference by respected amateur rider Derek O'Connor recently.
Following the loss of Doncaster, Friday's two other British are on the all-weather, but there are plenty of reasons to jump for joy at Newbury, especially as conditions look set to be cold but, thankfully, dry.
Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase 2m4f
This time two years ago Kalashnikov went towards announcing what a weapon he was with victory at Doncaster and connections are hoping he leaves handicaps behind him after this.
Ladbrokes Where The Nation Plays Novices' Chase (Grade 2) 2m4f
On the eve of the Tote Ten to Follow competition starting, Champ has been a popular selection and might just show exactly why.
Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) 3m
A bona fide star of the sport with a compelling and heartwarming backstory - what is not to like about Paisley Park, who should be winning this if layers are correct.
Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle 3m
Local boy Harry Whittington is having a decent season and knows how to celebrate, which he could easily be doing with the progressive Captain Tommy on duty.
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