Ladbrokes Trophy: trainers and jockeys on the big-race contenders at Newbury
Saturday: 3.00 Newbury
Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (Grade 3) | 3m2f | 4yo+ | ITV/RTV
Cloth Cap has received a massive vote of confidence from jockey Tom Scudamore as he attempts to join Arkle as the only back-to-back winner of Newbury's famous winter highlight.
With Mandarin and Denman the only other dual winners of the prestigious handicap chase, Cloth Cap will be looking to join rarefied company and although 18lb higher than when bolting up from the front in a course record time last year, the Jonjo O'Neill-trained nine-year-old certainly has the right rider for the occasion.
Scudamore joined Willie Robinson as the most successful jockey in the race 12 months ago, adding to wins on Sizing Tennessee (2018) and Madison Du Berlais (2008).
He could have ridden another of Britain's main contenders in Remastered for boss David Pipe but stays loyal to Cloth Cap, who made a satisfactory comeback at Cheltenham last month having had wind surgery after being pulled in last season's Grand National.
Scudamore said: "The ground was the deciding factor. David and I had a conversation about it a couple of days ago and I've come down on Cloth Cap, and we'll see if I'm right.
"I was pleased with his run at Cheltenham. He has to improve for it, but there's no reason why he won't. It was his first run back off the wind op and he ran very pleasingly. It was only from the second-last that we got run out of it.
"The conditions should suit him better at Newbury. It's going to be a lot harder off an 18lb higher mark, but the way he went and won it last year, you would be hard pressed to say he wouldn't have won it with another 18lb on his back."
Cloth Cap carries the famous colours of late owner Trevor Hemmings, a three-time winner of the race, and would be a fitting scorer following the millionaire businessman's death last month.
O'Neill added: "We've been very happy with him since his comeback run and he's as well as we had him before he won the race last year, although he's 18lb higher in the handicap.
"The long-term plan is Aintree, he had a wind problem in the race last year but we've since got that sorted."
Strong hand as Ireland target rare win
Irish trainers have a dismal record in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but hopes of a rare victory are high with Ontheropes and Eklat De Rire heading the betting on the eve of the race.
Last month's Munster National winner Ontheropes is one of three runners for Willie Mullins, who also runs Brahma Bull and Annamix and provided Ireland with a first win in the Newbury showpiece since 1980 when Total Recall scored in 2017.
Mullins won the race in 2002 with Be My Royal, but the winner was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance caused by contaminated feed.
He said of his trio: "Ontheropes went into the Munster National as a maiden over fences and won really well. He jumped nicely and improved for the break he'd had before that. He has a similar profile to Total Recall, who won the Munster National and went on to win the Ladbrokes Trophy for me.
"I'm hoping Ontheropes can emulate him. The extra two furlongs will suit him, he has bundles of stamina, and jumps well enough. If he keeps it all together he has a real chance.
"Brahma Bull will have no trouble with the ground or trip here. He's a big, strong horse who will cope with top weight okay too.
"Annamix might not be suited by the trip here. His jumping let him down a little at Punchestown last time and I'd be a little worried about that too, but he's another who is very hard to find races for. This has been the plan for a while."
Fresh from Betfair Chase success with A Plus Tard, Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore return with Eklat De Rire as they look to continue their domination of Britain's biggest races.
Eklat De Rire gave Blackmore her first winner back from injury last month in a Listed chase at Wexford and will be De Bromhead's first runner in the race.
He said: "He's got good form and won well at Wexford the other day. He's a really nice staying chaser and second-season novices seem to have a good record in the race. Hopefully he fits that profile. How exposed or unexposed he is, I don't really know."
Fiddler out to maintain winning tune
Colin Tizzard has three chances of gaining a third Ladbrokes Trophy success in six years, with Fiddlerontheroof leading his team.
Fiddlerontheroof finished second to Monkfish in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase at Cheltenham and returned with victory in the Colin Parker Memorial Chase, a race Many Clouds won on his way to Newbury glory in 2014.
"This has always been the target, everything has gone to plan and we're excited about running him," said Tizzard's son and assistant Joe.
"It's a really hot race but he deserves to be near the top of the betting. He was second at Cheltenham, so I don't see the trip on this ground as a problem."
On the stable's other chances of following up the victories of Native River (2016) and Sizing Tennessee (2018), Tizzard said: "We'd have loved to have got a prep run into Copperhead but with the autumn ground, we've not been able to. It's a big ask coming straight back in the Ladbrokes Trophy and he had a disappointing last season, but he does seem in good form at home.
"Mister Malarky has dropped a couple of pounds and although it's hard to know when he's going to turn up, when he does he's a good horse, simple as that."
What the rest say
Christian Williams, trainer of Kitty's Light
It's a race we've targeted and we're looking forward to it. It looks ultra-competitive and it's great to have a horse with a chance. He should nearly have won the bet365 Gold Cup last season and just got touched off at Chepstow and then ran a nice race picking up the pieces in the Charlie Hall. He's only a five-year-old and should love the conditions, as he probably wants nice ground at his age.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Brave Eagle
He's a very capable fellow who has plenty of ability. He had a fair bit of time off after a fall last year when he fractured a bone in his hip and he had a comeback run at Chepstow where he ran a great race. His handicap mark is such that he's got to run in races like this and he'd have an each-way shot.
Alan King, trainer of Potterman and Canelo
Unlike most trainers I will be quite happy if the dry spell continues. I've barely got a soft-ground horse in the yard. Potterman came back in late, so he was only just ready to start in the Badger Beer Chase at Wincanton where he produced a career-best performance even though he was runner-up for the second successive year. He could run really well. Canelo has come on plenty for his comeback run at Bangor, though he'll probably improve again for this second run.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Enrilo
We've tried to get him ready first time out and he had a gallop round Newbury, which we were pleased with. He's had a good preparation and we're happy with where he is. He's 7lb higher than he was when technically winning the bet365 Gold Cup. It will be a hard race to win as normal, but we think we've got a chance. He seemed progressive last season and hopefully he'll progress again.
David Pipe, trainer of Remastered
He had a nice prep at Aintree and we're back over fences here. We think it's the right race for him, although he'd appreciate softer ground. Other than that everything looks right for him, he should have a nice chance. Fergus Gillard rides with Scu [Tom Scudamore] back on Cloth Cap.
Sam Twiston-Davies, rider of The Hollow Ginge
He was fourth in it last year and conditions look as if they are going to be similar, so hopefully he can run a nice race. He needs to get up the handicap as his owner wants to get him into the Grand National.
Kerry Lee, trainer of Demachine
He's in wonderful form – he's an exciting horse for the yard. Arguably, his best form was first time out last season and the ground will be in his favour. Everything he has done at home has pleased us very much and we feel it would be churlish not to at least have a try at a big prize with him. If ever there is an opportunity, this is it.
Venetia Williams, trainer of Cloudy Glen
He could have done with some more rain, which I'm sure most of the runners would have wanted, as most of his form is on softer ground. He's had a wind op since his last run and we're hoping for the best.
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