The ground is likely to be soft at Newbury for todays principal meeting with the feature event the Ladbrokes Trophy one of the most competitive handicap chases of the year.

I would suggest it is a good rather than vintage renewal of the great race with a strong Irish challenge led by the Willie Mullins trained Ontheropes who won the Munster National at Limerick last month. He must go close and on a line through Monkfish there is little to choose between him and Fiddlerontheroof (3.00) but the Colin Tizzard trained 7-year-old gets the vote in the absence of Next Destination who I have backed antepost.

The selection – 8s with William Hill 7 places – finished 6L behind Monkfish at Cheltenham back in the spring at a time when the yard were going through a dip in form and he deserves to win a big one after running a number of excellent races in defeat last term.

He looked better than ever when winning an Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on his reappearance and stablemate Lostintranslation bounced back to his very best at Ascot last weekend. The selection has yet to prove his stamina for this extended 3m 2f, but I think he will stay the trip.  

Henry De Bromhead plundered the Grade 1 Betfair Chase with A Plus Tard last weekend and his monopoly of the major staying chases in Britain could easily extend to this contest with Eklat De Rire considered the main danger to the selection. Rachel Blackmore blames herself for the fall at Cheltenham back in the spring and the rain has come at just the right time for this proven mudlark.

Elle Est Belle (12.10) finished behind Nina The Terrier at Wetherby on her hurdles debut and is 5lbs worse off with the Alan King trained mare. That was a farce of a race, however, and I feel granted a stronger gallop on soft ground that the Dan Skelton trained mare can reverse the form. Theatre Glory made all on her Bumper debut but there is no guaranteed pace in the race. If nobody else wants to make it I hope Harry Skelton ensures a good gallop. The 13/8 with William Hill looks fair.

The four-runner G2 Novice Chase is a cracking little heat but the ground has come right for Ahoy Senor (12.40) who was pitched in at the deep end on his chase debut when he came down two out in the race won by Fiddlerontheroof at Carlisle. He ran out an impressive winner of the G1 Novice Hurdle at Aintree back in the spring and the hope is that the selection can make up into a top class chaser with the spring Festivals in mind. The 7/4 with MansionBet is about right.

I thought Ofalltheginjoints (1.15) had to be involved in the finish of the Badger Beer at Wincanton last time but he appeared not to get home and he steps down in trip to an extended 2m 6f in the handicap chase named in honour of the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan. The 7-y-old was blinkered for the first time at Wincanton and the headgear is retained today. There is 10s available at Boylesports and William Hill with the latter offering 4 places.

Kapcorse won the corresponding race three years ago and runs in the colours of the “voice of racing.” A market move would be worth noting. Killer Clown is another to consider fitted with cheekpieces fir the first time.

Gowel Road drops back down in trip having ran out a comfortable winner at Cheltenham earlier in the month from a 7lbs lower mark over 2m 5f. A dual C&D winner he is 10lbs higher than when scoring here back in the spring but is likely to give it a good go from the front.

Soaring Glory (2.25) would not have looked out of place in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle today and he is taken to give weight and a beating to his three rivals. I think he could make up into a Champion Hurdle contender this season before going novice chasing. He can defy a 6lbs rise for winning at Ascot on his reappearance although I appreciate the form has not exactly been franked in the interim period. The selection is 6/5 with Boylesports.

My two against the field in the concluding 2m handicap chase are Sao and Il Ridoto (3.35) with preference for the 4-year-old who finished third at Newton Abbot in a four-runner race on his British debut. The three other runners have all scored in the interim period and the selection has been dropped a couple of pounds for the run. There was 5s about on Friday but he is into 7/2 with William Hill 4 places.

Former champion hurdler Epatante looked to have the world at her feet when she won last year’s Fighting Fifth but the wheels came off in three subsequent starts and she has a bit to prove at Newcastle today. The unbeaten Monmiral (3.15) was a facile winner of the Aintree G1 at the National meeting beating Adagio by a long looking 7L.

Adagio finished runner up in the Greatwood on his reappearance off a mark of 147 and is now rated 152. History dictates that it is difficult for 4 rising 5-year-old’s to make their mark at the top table of hurdling, but Monmiral should enjoy the forecast rain and he may be overpriced at 3/1.

My Mate Mozzie (1.05) remains my only antepost bet for Cheltenham and I hope he can maintain his unbeaten record in Sunday’s Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse. He jumped slightly out to the right at Navan last time which is a concern for the Festival but will not be an issue returning to a clockwise track. The 3s with William Hill looks fair.     

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