The Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (formerly the Hennessy) takes place on Saturday, and despite the ground likely to be a little lively for him, the money continues to come for Harry Fry’s American.
Three from three during an impressive novice campaign, his trainer couldn’t be happier as the ‘big day’ draws near. “We’ve made no secret that this race has always been the plan,” said Fry. “It’s no easy task first time out but we’ve been very happy with him at home. He’s fragile, but we’ve given him away days at Wincanton and Newbury recently, and he’s in good form. We were delighted with everything he did last season, but he’ll have to improve again on that form to win at Newbury.”
He’s also entered in the Welsh National as back-up. But with the going currently described as good to soft at Newbury, he looks likely to take his chance.
American is tussling for top spot in the betting with the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall. An impressive winner of the Munster National last time, he takes a huge hike in the handicap, and it’s tough to assess whether he arrives at Newbury on a handy mark or not.
“He did one or two bits of work and it looked like his rating might be a little low with the type of work he was doing at home,” said Mullins, referring to his Limerick win. “A lot of things went his way and he won very handily at the end. You need a lot of luck in those races and he got it that day. He is doing everything right at home.”
“I don't know whether the handicapper has caught up with him or not,” the trainer added. “If the weights stay as they are, it's a lovely racing weight. The trip won't be a problem and jumping won't be a problem, so he has a lot going for him.”
Whisper has also been popular with punters and Nicky Henderson is clearly pleased with his preparation: “That was a good race at Kempton. I know it was a two-horse race, but there was not much in it. The extra trip will help him. It was exactly what we wanted to do. The timing was right. It was nice to see Clan Des Obeaux win at Haydock. To be fair, this horse has had a good time ever since. He schooled on Friday and we will give him one more pop and off we go.
“Davy (Russell) gets on with this horse really well. He will already have an idea of where he is going to go and what he is going to do. He is a great jockey and is pretty cunning and he will have a plan. He has got the hang of this horse very swiftly. He lets him warm up over the first few fences. You can't afford to be hunting around the back to get him through a few gears as the race will be gone. I think he has got enough experience of him now. His work was good on Saturday.”
The Master of Seven Barrows has won three of the last dozen renewals and has another fancied contender in last year’s sixth Vyta Du Roc. The eight-year-old is 3lb better off this time around and has seen his price half in recent days. “He had a run over hurdles at Aintree the same day Top Notch had a run and you saw how much good that did for him last Saturday (winning at Ascot),” said Henderson. “I'm quietly hopeful that will put him exactly where he needs to be and if he comes back to the last day at Sandown last year where he was only beaten a nose, he might have a chance.”
In his ‘Weekender’ column trainer Alan King wrote of his hopes for Label Des Obeaux. The son of Saddler Maker was third to Might Bite last time at Sandown and looks sure to be suited by this extended trip. “We have to try to find some improvement in him, so we schooled him in cheekpieces the other day. They seemed to sharpen him up and he’ll probably wear them on Saturday,” King penned.
King’s Smad Place landed the prestigious event in 2015 and the trainer appears hopeful rather than confident of further success, cautiously adding: “My fear is that he has too much weight. Smad Place was handily treated, whereas Label Des Obeaux doesn’t look handicapped to win a race like this.”