WORKS hard, sleeps hard, eats and doesn’t stress too much.
Why, you might think, am I writing a Saturday column about me? Ha, well I’m not, I’m talking about Aye Right who tackles today’s feature Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury.
The near three and a quarter mile event – known for sixty renewals as the Hennessy – remains one of the most exciting and prestigious handicaps of the jumps season.
And the list of winners is impressive, numbering Mandarin, Mill House, Arkle, Bregawn, Burrough Hill Lad, One Man, Denman, Bobs Worth and Native River.
Aye Right – featured in much detail elsewhere in today’s paper – is a fascinating contender for Harriet Graham, bidding to become the first female handler to train the first past the post in the race since Venetia Williams scored with the fabulous Teeton Mill in 1998.
Lavinia Taylor was in charge of the 2002 victor Gingembre, but he only got the race on the disqualification of Be My Royal who tested positive for a banned substance.
Graham is expected to be at Newbury, despite the fact she was recently hurt badly after being run over by her own horsebox. Don’t ask!
Of Aye Right, who was fifth behind Champ in the 2020 RSA at the Cheltenham Festival and third behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, she said: “I do rate him quite highly.
“He’s an absolute pleasure to train. He works hard, sleeps hard, eats and doesn’t stress about going racing. He does his work and wonders about in the field all day.”
Graham, Clerk of the Course at Hamilton and Musselburgh and a former director of picture provider Racetech, added: “Aye Right is not in the class of Cyrname, but I do think over a distance he jumps and gallops and hopefully we will be thereabouts at the finish. He’s the best we have had.”
A field of 18 is set to go to post for today’s big race, shown live on the main ITV network.
Many will fancy Vinndication, who was one place in front of Aye Right at Wetherby and hails from the in-form stable of Kim Bailey. David Bass takes the mount, and he’s also been incredible this term, banging in a double last weekend on ITV via Imperial Aura and First Flow.
Vinndication will need to jump better in the early stages than he did last time, but he might well do that and could just be a Gold Cup horse.
Of the others, Black Op has always had much talent for Tom George, chasing home Samcro in the 2018 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and third to Paisley Park in the 2019 Cleeve.
Jonathan Burke’s mount has some good chase form mixed in with Champ, but I’m not sure he’s quite up to this.
Kildisart is a better chaser than hurdler, and followed home the re-opposing The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap at Cheltenham in March. Both could feature at their best.
The one I like each-way is Cloth Cap, who stays strong but might lack a bit of pace. He returned with a fair third behind Frodon at Cheltenham, and in his past has finished eighth in an Ultima at Cheltenham and third in a Scottish Grand National.
At his best he must have claims and ground conditions are ideal. Tom Scudamore is a decent booking for Jonjo O’Neill.
Away from Newbury, all eyes will be on Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante, who makes her seasonal return in the Grade 1 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Those of us who think her JP Mcmanus stable companion Saint Roi is the one to be on in the 2021 Champion Hurdle will be taking a keen interest in how she gets on.
Should she get beat, Saint Roi could become the new ante-post favourite for the main event. Since 1990, only three Champion Hurdle victors have gone on to run in the Fighting Fifth the same year, namely Binocular and Buveur d’Air (twice).
Meat Loaf would be happy as two out of the three won, with only Binocular getting turned over in 2010. Nicky Henderson will expect Epatante to be successful, as she is one of only seven in the line-up for the two-mile event.
That said, the ground will be perfect for Sceau Royal, who is on a roll this season for Alan King and is only rated 4lb below his big rival although, of course, Epatante has a 7lb mares’ allowance.
At the odds I would prefer to back Sceau Royal. It’s a cracking weekend. Enjoy.
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