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Cloudy Glen claims Ladbrokes Trophy gold

Cloudy Glen landed a emotional success when causing a 33-1 upset in the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury.

Wearing the second colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, who won this race with Trabolgan, Many Clouds and Cloth Cap, the Venetia William-trained eight-year-old held the persistent challenge of Fiddlerontheroof in the hands of Charlie Deutsch.

Hemmings’ first colours were carried by last year’s winner Cloth Cap, who helped set the pace from the outset.

There were a few casualties with Enrilo falling at the 14th fence and Remastered coming down when in contention and going well at the fourth-last fence, while the Irish-trained favourite Eklat De Rire was pulled up by Rachael Blackmore after the sixth-last obstacle.

Cloudy Glen led three out but Fiddlerontheroof looked the main threat and the pair had the race between them. It was the former who kept up the gallop to score by half a length. The pair pulled 28 lengths clear of Brahma Bull in third with Ontheropes fourth.

Cloudy Glen was a product of Hemmings’ Gleadhill House Stud, being a son of Cloudings who has provided many winners in the famous silks – not least Grand National hero Many Clouds.

Hemmings died last month at the age of 86 and Williams felt victory in this race was a fine tribute to the owner.

She said: “It was written in the stars. Trevor (Hemmings) was looking down. To have his two horses making the running in the Hennessy, turning for home. It is just unbelievable, isn’t it?

“He was just wonderful as an owner. He had the most wonderful, wicked little sense of humour.

“But he understood horses. You had to be patient. In his business he was really on it, but with his horses, he was so patient and knew what it took.

“This fellow was winning off one of the bottom weights and he has had a wind operation since the last time he ran. We couldn’t even do the galloping scope because he is such a quirky horse and he wouldn’t let the vet get anywhere near with that scope. But he has always been a weird one and he did a piece of work last week and I thought ‘blimey! Where did that come from?’.

“So, I decided then I was going to run him in this race.

“He will be out partying with us this evening, because he is that kind of horse!”

The Cloudy Glen team receive their trophies
The Cloudy Glen team receive their trophies (Steven Paston/PA)

She added: “He was always capable of pulling something out the bag, but you never knew if he would do it here or at Fontwell.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Charlie, who gave him an outstanding ride.

“I just can’t believe it – I am just so thrilled for Catherine and her family, who are here today. Power from above made it happen and it could not have been better.”

Fiddlerontheroof (left) had to settle for second
Fiddlerontheroof (left) had to settle for second (Steven Paston/PA)

Joe Tizzard felt Fiddlerontheroof might have won with a bit more luck.

He said: “He missed the last fence a little bit and he had to make up those three lengths when the horse (Remastered) fell. He has run a blinder and if he had not got tangled up, he would probably have won.”

Willie Mullins saddled both Brahma Bull and Ontheropes, plus Annamix who came to grief three fences from home.

He said: “We were very happy, because Ontheropes just found the pace of the race was too fast early on and just had the technique to jump and stay on and learn an awful lot. He was just a bit too slow early on.

“His jumping kept him in the race and Annamix was running a great race until he got tired and fell, but happily he is back safe and sound, so it’s all good.”

Cheveley Park eyeing more big-race success with Ontheropes in Trophy test

Ontheropes bids to provide Cheveley Park Stud with yet another big-race victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

While better known as a major player in breeding and Flat racing circles, Cheveley Park has enjoyed remarkable success in the jumping world in recent seasons with a relatively small pool of horses.

Allaho and Envoi Allen are among those to carry the red, white and blue colours to Cheltenham Festival glory, while A Plus Tard blew his rivals away in last Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.

This weekend the team are chasing another top tier National Hunt prize, with the Willie Mullins-trained Ontheropes many people’s idea of the most likely winner.

Richard Thompson (right) with A Plus Tard at Haydock
Richard Thompson (right) with A Plus Tard at Haydock (Simon Marper/PA)

Cheveley Park Stud director Richard Thompson said: “Last weekend was very exhilarating and I’m looking forward to going to Newbury.

“Can we win the two big races on two Saturday afternoons in a row? I don’t think so, but we’re going there with a big chance.

“We’ve had seven winners from 15 runners at Cheltenham and we’ve won 14 Grade Ones now, which includes three Champion Bumpers, a Ryanair, a Ballymore, a Savills and a Betfair Chase – it’s unbelievable.”

Ontheropes looked fairly ordinary after his first four starts over fences, but a made a big step forward when runner-up to esteemed stablemate Monkfish on his sole start of last season at Fairyhouse.

He returned from almost a year on the sidelines to win last month’s Munster National at Limerick, a race Mullins landed four years ago with Total Recall, who went on to follow up at Newbury.

“Willie seems happy with him and hopefully he has still got a few pounds in hand,” Thompson added.

“He looked the part (at Limerick), but I’m just thinking after last Saturday, surely it can’t happen again this weekend. The success we’ve had is hard to put into words.

“As long as he runs well and jumps well and finishes the race in a good place, that’s great.”

Ontheropes is one of three runners for Mullins, along with the Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned pair of Annamix and Brahma Bull, while a formidable Irish contingent also includes Eklat De Rire.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge unseated Rachael Blackmore at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but made an excellent reappearance at Wexford last month.

“Second-season novices seem to have a good record in it and he has that profile,” said De Bromhead.

“It was probably a bit early to gauge it (at Cheltenham), but he seemed to be going well and Rachael was happy with him. It was a bit unfortunate.

“We really like him and think he’s a very good horse. Whether he can make that step, we’ll find out on his next couple of runs really.

“We were happy to pitch him in at Cheltenham last season and when you’re up at that rating, I wouldn’t like to be predicting how far they can go – I prefer them to go out and do it themselves.

“He’s a horse we think a lot of and we’re looking forward to it.”

One of the leading hopes for the home team is Enrilo, who bids to provide Paul Nicholls with a sixth Ladbrokes Trophy success.

The Ditcheat handler won back-to-back renewals of the prestigious handicap as a rider aboard Broadheath and Playschool in the 1980s, while Strong Flow provided him with a first win as a trainer in 2003.

Enrilo (left) in action at Sandown
Enrilo (left) in action at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The brilliant Denman won under a welter burden of 11st 12lb in both 2007 and 2009 – and in Enrilo Nicholls believes he has another serious contender.

He said: “He’s fine. He schooled on Thursday morning. I’m very happy with him.

“He went to the gallops day at Newbury last week and did some work there. He won’t need the run, I’d have thought.

“I’ve been very happy with his preparation.”

Last year’s winner Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, bids to become only the fourth dual winner of the prestigious contest – and the first to go back-to-back since Arkle in the 1960s.

He will be ridden by Tom Scudamore, who said: “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.

“Having said that, this year we have some Irish horses coming over that look pretty unexposed and you have to give them the utmost respect.”

Fiddlerontheroof mixed it with the best novices around last season and was not winning out of turn on his return to action in the Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle.

He is one of three runners for Colin Tizzard along with Copperhead and Mister Malarky.

Fiddlerontheroof after winning at Carlisle
Fiddlerontheroof after winning at Carlisle (Ashley Iveson/PA)

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “Fiddlerontheroof goes in there with the best form. He did it nicely at Carlisle and we couldn’t be happier with him at home.

“It’s a competitive race, as it always is, but he goes in there ticking lots of boxes.

“Copperhead is a classy horse on his day, but just wasn’t right all of last season. He seems well at home. I would have loved to have got a prep run into him, but we couldn’t because the ground.

“He’s working well and schooling well and I think he’s back to somewhere near his best, which would give him an each-way chance.

“Mister Malarky has had a couple of runs and ran quite nicely at Ascot last time. It’s not easy to judge when he’s right, but on his day he’s quite talented.”

Kitty’s Light (left) during a recent racecourse gallop at Newbury
Kitty’s Light (left) during a recent racecourse gallop at Newbury (Adam Davy/PA)

Christian Williams has high hopes for Charlie Hall Chase runner-up Kitty’s Light, saying: “It’s great to have a horse running in these type of races that we think has got a genuine chance.

“Three runs ago he did all bar win the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, he had a lovely first run back at Chepstow and then he was second in the Charlie Hall in ground that a bit sticky for him.

“We’ll see how we get on. He’s a horse we hope could be running in Grand Nationals at some stage, or if he keeps improving he might even make up into a Gold Cup horse.”

Eklat De Rire heads 21 seeking Ladbrokes Trophy gold

Henry de Bromhead will aim to continue his domination of the major National Hunt prizes in Britain when Eklat De Rire lines up in a field of 21 for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

Having dominated the last Cheltenham Festival by winning the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and saddling the first two home in the Gold Cup, De Bromhead then went on to provide the first two finishers in the Grand National.

Last weekend he proved he has not taken his foot off the gas when A Plus Tard turned the Betfair Chase into a procession and Eklat De Rire has been among the market leaders for one of the feature races of the season since making a winning comeback at Wexford.

Stablemate Chris’s Dream, however, does not make the journey meaning the weights rise by 4lb, leaving Willie Mullins’ Brahma Bull at the top.

Mullins also runs Munster National winner Ontheropes, another leading ante-post fancy and the mount of Sean O’Keeffe, and Annamix (Jack Foley).

Last year’s winner Cloth Cap is back once more, but will find life a bit tougher this time around on his mark of 154.

Cloth Cap led his rivals a merry dance in the race 12 months ago
Cloth Cap led his rivals a merry dance in the race 12 months ago (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Tom Scudamore retains the partnership, in preference to riding Remastered for his boss David Pipe.

“The ground was the deciding factor. David and I had a conversation about it a couple of days ago. I’ve come down on Cloth Cap and we’ll see if I’m right on Saturday,” said Scudamore.

“I was pleased with his run at Cheltenham (first time out). He has to improve for it, but there is no reason why not. 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 on Saturday.

“I was having a great ride off him in the Grand National until he started making a noise and then the wheels came off very quickly. Hopefully that’s been rectified.”

The in-form Colin Tizzard runs Fiddlerontheroof, successful on his comeback in a strong race at Carlisle and Copperhead, winner of the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase in 2020 before losing his way completely last season. Mister Malarky is another going for Tizzard.

Potterman (far side) battles with Kitty's Light in the Bet 365 Gold Cup
Potterman (far side) battles with Kitty’s Light in the Bet 365 Gold Cup (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Paul Nicholls is represented by Enrilo, first past the post in the bet365 Gold Cup only to be demoted to third, while the beneficiary of that decision, Alan King’s Potterman, also runs. Stablemate Canelo also lines up.

Kitty’s Light was second in that Sandown race, as well as in the Charlie Hall Chase last time out and will aim to give Christian Williams a first win in the race.

Demachine, Brave Eagle, The Hollow Ginge, Cloudy Glen, Fortescue, Full Back, One More Fleurie and Danny Whizzbang complete the field.

Demachine delighting ahead of Ladbrokes Trophy test

Kerry Lee is delighted with Demachine’s preparation as he takes on the best the top English and Irish trainers can muster in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.

The Presteigne trainer reports the lightly-raced seven-year-old to be ready for the big test this prestigious staying handicap chase presents.

Demachine may not have run since finishing second to Remastered in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February but Lee points out he won on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter in October, 2020, on his first start for 214 days.

“He’s really good. Everything he’s doing has pleased us. His last piece of work was very good and I’m hopeful the ground will really suit him,” she said.

“Obviously, he’s untried at three-miles-two (furlongs). That has to be a question mark but we take it he’ll stay. He gives no reason to say he won’t and I think he’s bred to stay and he’s a second-season chaser.

“It’s a very competitive renewal with the Irish horses in it and the best from this country too.

“We have a competitive chance and I think we are entitled to be there and you could argue he is best fresh as he won first time out last season. He beat some decent novice chasers at Uttoxeter, so it’s fingers crossed.

“He’s rated 142. I think that’s fair on the evidence he has shown so far. Do I think he’s well in? How can I possibly know? We’ll find out on Saturday.

“I could do with this with Messrs De Bromhead, Mullins and Nicholls and so on in there. They don’t make it easy for the smaller trainers like us. If Sue Smith can do it (with Midnight Shadow in the Paddy Power Gold Cup), let’s hope I can too.”

Eklat De Rire has De Bromhead in the hunt for more weekend riches

Eklat De Rire will bid to continue Henry de Bromhead’s domination of the major jumps prizes in Britain this year with victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

While the County Waterford handler has been a major force at the top level for a number of seasons, the success he has enjoyed in 2021 has been nothing short of remarkable.

The first trainer to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and the Gold Cup in the same year at Cheltenham in March, De Bromhead then teamed up with Rachael Blackmore to make history in the Grand National the following month.

He made another successful raid when saddling Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard to become the first Irish-trained winner of Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock, and even De Bromhead is struggling to comprehend the scale of his achievements.

Henry de Bromhead with A Plus Tard at Haydock
Henry de Bromhead with A Plus Tard at Haydock (Simon Marper/PA)

“It’s incredible to have the horses we have at the moment. When you list those races, they’re races I’d have dreamt of winning – it’s unreal, incredible,” he said.

In Eklat De Rire, De Bromhead houses a leading contender for this weekend’s feature event.

He could be joined by stablemate and top-weight Chris’s Dream, although his participation is less certain due to the likely underfoot conditions.

De Bromhead said: “There’s a bit of concern on the ground, obviously. They’re saying it’s good to soft and I think they’re watering at the moment.

“Both would probably prefer more ease in the ground, but we’ll see. I think there’s a little bit of rain forecast later in the week.

“It seems a great idea for both horses. Chris’s Dream probably really appreciates a good dig in the ground and is also entered in the Becher Chase at Aintree, so we’ll see where we’ll go.

“Although it sounds like it’s going to be lovely ground, he might want it even softer.”

Eklat De Rire won a Grade Three novice chase at Naas last season, before unseating Blackmore in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham. He made a successful reappearance at Wexford last month.

“In the spring Peter Davies (owner) mentioned the race for Eklat De Rire. He’s based over there, so he’d love to see him run in it and we said we’d certainly aim towards it,” the trainer continued.

“He’s got good form and won well the other day. He’s a really nice staying chaser, so fingers crossed we’ll get him there and he’ll give a good account of himself.

“He had some very good runs over fences last year. He was very impressive in his novice chase at Naas and we thought he was going well at Cheltenham.

“He’s a horse we have high hopes for. How exposed or unexposed he is, I don’t know really. Once you’re up in the 150s, you’d be a brave man to be aiming for much beyond that, in my opinion.

“It seems a suitable race for him to go for, we’re happy with him and looking forward to it.”

De Bromhead’s pair are part of what is likely to be a formidable Irish challenge, with champion trainer Willie Mullins preparing to saddle ante-post favourite Onetheropes, as well as Brahma Bull and Annamix.

Hopes for the home team among 22 confirmations include Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof, the Paul Nicholls-trained Enrilo, Christian Williams’ Kitty’s Light and last year’s winner Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O’Neill.

Clerk of the course Keith Ottesen expects the ground to be on the “easy side of good” come the weekend.

He said: “It was pretty dry and with the profile of these races there was no point sitting on your hands, so for the past few weeks we’ve been able to maintain ground on the easy side of good.

Fiddlerontheroof after winning at Carlisle
Fiddlerontheroof after winning at Carlisle (Ashley Iveson/PA)

“We’re really good to soft ground at the moment and we’re going to finish off a bit of watering today.

“It’s dry and sunny today and tomorrow it looks like it will be a misty, foggy start and quite cold. Wednesday is also a misty, damp start and then there’s a front coming in on Wednesday night with one to two millimetres of rain.

“On Thursday we could catch a chance of a shower, but on Friday it starts off cold again and then there’s a band of rain passing through from mid-morning and throughout racing and we should get two to five millimetres followed by some blustery showers.

“Saturday is a bit uncertain, but there’s another band of rain coming through, and it wouldn’t take much rain to put it the other way as the ground is properly good to soft and I don’t see it drying out. There’s no ground concerns in terms of it getting quick – it should be fair for everybody.”

Kitty’s Light in top form ahead of Ladbrokes Trophy challenge

Trainer Christian Williams reports Kitty’s Light to be in fine shape ahead of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

The five-year-old bids to become the youngest horse to win the prestigious staying handicap chase since its inception as the Hennessy Gold Cup in 1957.

Runner-up in a controversial race for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April, Kitty’s Light has had the benefit of two runs this autumn and is a general 10-1 chance for glory at the weekend.

Second in a handicap chase at Chepstow on his return early month, he was runner-up in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks later.

“We’re looking forward to that. He’s in good form at home and we cantered him at Newbury on the press day (Tuesday). He seemed very well. He’s a good horse and one we always look forward to running,” said Williams.

“Hopefully it will stay dry for another week. He’s in good form so he’ll be running whatever the ground is.”

He added: “He’s a bit of a freak how he recovers from his races. Even in the winner’s enclosure after a race he recovers so quickly. There must be something in him – big lungs, big heart – and he’s so clean winded. He always recovers very well.

Nicholls confident ‘exciting’ Enrilo can sparkle in Ladbrokes Trophy test

Paul Nicholls believes Enrilo can provide him with a sixth victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy on Saturday week following a pleasing workout at Newbury on Tuesday morning.

The Ditcheat handler won back-to-back renewals of the prestigious handicap as a rider aboard Broadheath and Playschool in the 1980s, while Strong Flow provided him with a first win as a trainer in 2003.

The brilliant Denman won under a welter burden of 11st 12lb in both 2007 and 2009 – and in Enrilo Nicholls believes he has another leading contender.

First past the post in last season’s bet365 Gold Cup before being demoted to third, the seven-year-old delighted his trainer after enjoying a morning spin alongside four stablemates under Harry Cobden.

Nicholls said: “I’m pleased with Enrilo and Harry was chuffed to bits with him – he couldn’t pull him up afterwards. He travelled nicely and it will put him spot-on for next week.

“He was unlucky at Sandown and it’s handy we don’t have a penalty by coming straight here fresh.

“What I like about him is that he stays and he has speed, which you need for the Ladbrokes Trophy.

“I was very lucky to ride the winner twice and it’s really exciting to have Enrilo this year.”

Enrilo was kept up to his work by Monmiral and Clan Des Obeaux, with the latter appearing in rude health ahead of his bid for a third victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Clan Des Obeaux (left) on his way to winning last season's Punchestown Gold Cup
Clan Des Obeaux (left) on his way to winning last season’s Punchestown Gold Cup (Brian Lawless/PA)

Nicholls decided against running his charge in this weekend’s Betfair Chase at Haydock in an attempt to ensure he is cherry-ripe for his hat-trick bid in the Boxing Day showpiece, where he is likely to meet his stablemate and defending champion Frodon.

“Clan is going for the King George and he’ll have another gallop next week,” said Nicholls.

“We thought Haydock would take the edge off him in bottomless ground and he’s so good fresh.

“We’ve got six weeks to get him ready for Kempton and want to go there in the best possible shape.

“Last year we had to be easy on him for two weeks after the Betfair Chase, whereas this year we can give him a month of hard graft and go there fresh.

“Frodon always keeps finding, but when Clan’s at his best he’s hard to beat.”

Monmiral caught the eye in his workout – finishing full of running under Harry Derham.

So impressive at Aintree in the spring, the four-year-old is due to return in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle on the same day as the Ladbrokes Trophy, although Newbury’s Gerry Feilden is an alternative.

Nicholls confirmed that if Monmiral does head for the north east, Sean Bowen is pencilled in for the ride, with Cobden due to partner Enrilo at Newbury.

AP McCoy at Newbury
AP McCoy at Newbury (Adam Davy/PA)

Of Monmiral, Nicholls said: “He worked very nicely and he’s a Clan Des Obeaux or Frodon of the future.

“We need rain for him. If it’s not soft at Newcastle, he could come here for the Gerry Feilden or it will have to be the International at Cheltenham.

“His first run will tell us where we are.”

The other two Nicholls inmates to work at Newbury were Kapcorse and Flash Collonges, with the latter ridden by Sir Anthony McCoy. Both are due to return to Berkshire for competitive action next week.

Pipe hoping for rain to aid Remastered at Newbury

David Pipe reports Remastered to be all set for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month, as long the ground is suitable following an encouraging seasonal debut.

The Nicholashayne trainer is praying for rain ahead of the prestigious staying handicap chase on November 27 for the mud-loving eight-year-old, who is a general 12-1 chance after enjoying a spin over hurdles at Aintree on Saturday.

Last season’s Reynoldstown Chase winner made most of the running before finding no extra in the final half-furlong. He was beaten a length and a quarter in third place behind Koshari in a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Series Qualifier over an extended three miles.

It was his first run since he was fifth to Galvin in the National Hunt Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in March.

“He came out of it fine. It’s all systems go for the Ladbrokes if we get the rain,” said Pipe, who won the Ladbrokes Trophy when it was staged under its original name of the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2008.

“It was good to blew away the cobwebs and get a run into him.”

Meanwhile, Pipe confirmed Adagio was likely to make his seasonal reappearance in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on Sunday.

The four-year-old was a leading juvenile hurdler last term, winning the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow and finishing second in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Doom Bar 4-Y-O Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

Ladbrokes Trophy on the agenda for Ontheropes

Ontheropes is on target for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on November 27.

Trained by Willie Mullins and owned by Cheveley Park Stud, the lightly-raced seven-year-old landed his first win over fences last time out in the Munster National.

He had previously finished second behind sidelined stablemate Monkfish on his only outing last season and will be aiming to improve the record of Irish-trained horses in the race.

Mullins’ win with Total Recall in 2017, who also won the Munster National prior to running at Newbury, was Ireland’s first since Bright Highway in 1980, although his Be My Royal was first past the post in 2002 before subsequently being disqualified after failing a drugs test due to contaminated feed.

Chris Richardson, Cheveley Park Stud’s managing director, said: “All being well, the Ladbrokes Trophy is the plan for Ontheropes. Everything that Willie has said to me is that this is his target.

“I’m told he is in good form and the Ladbrokes Trophy is the opportunity that we are looking at and it would be nice to have him running over here.

“He has a profile that matches quite nicely to the Ladbrokes Trophy and he has had a good summer.”

Until recently Cheveley Park’s red, white and blue silks were famous for their Flat exploits but their investment in the winter game has been rewarded with stars such as Envoi Allen, Ferny Hollow, A Plus Tard and Sir Gerhard all delivering on the big stage.

“It’s been a very special year. To be leading owner at Cheltenham was just an extraordinary thing. It was a great tribute to the late David Thompson,” said Richardson.

“Now we are looking forward to another season and the jumping chapter is beginning to get going. It will be as competitive as ever.

“Willie has one or two others in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but certainly on his last performance, Ontheropes deserves to be right up there.”

Nicholls pinpoints Enrilo at Ladbrokes Trophy

Paul Nicholls is priming Enrilo for a crack at the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury later this month.

The seven-year-old will be bidding to put the record straight following his demotion to third place for causing interference after being first past the post in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April.

Enrilo is 7-1 favourite with the sponsors for the prestigious staying handicap chase on November 27 after he was allotted 10st 10lb.

“The intention is to go straight to Newbury with Enrilo, it always has been the plan for him to go there fit, fresh and well,” said the Ditcheat trainer, who is seeking a fourth win in the race.

“He won at Newbury last season and obviously ran well at Sandown where he was a bit green in front. We have learned lessons in that he doesn’t want to be in front too soon, but he travels well in a race which will suit a race like the Ladbrokes Trophy.

“The Ladbrokes Trophy is always a hot race but we are trying to do our best to go there in great shape, with a great chance.

“The trip will be no worry at all for him. He has matured a bit this season and grown up.”

Nicholls’ other entries have alternative targets with Next Destination more likely to run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Newbury 20, while Lalor is heading for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on November 13.

Cloth Cap on course to defend Newbury crown

Jonjo O’Neill was encouraged by Cloth Cap’s return to action at Cheltenham – and all roads now lead back to Newbury and a defence of his Ladbrokes Trophy title.

The nine-year-old was sent off 11-2 favourite to give the late Trevor Hemmings a fourth Grand National in April – but it was discovered he had a respiratory problem there, and Tom Scudamore pulled him up.

Having had a breathing operation in the off-season, Cloth Cap returned at Cheltenham and jumped with all his old elan at the head of affairs before tiring into fourth behind Gordon Elliott’s Definite Plan.

“I was delighted with him – he ran a lovely race,” said O’Neill.

“Hopefully he’s OK – and then we’ll have another crack at the Ladbrokes Trophy, I would imagine. That was certainly the plan when he came in, and I don’t see any reason to change it.

“When you have a horse with his rating (154) the races pick themselves really, then hopefully he’ll go back for another crack at the National if it all works – but that’s a long way off.

“He showed all his old enthusiasm. He ran lovely, Tom was pleased with him – and he jumped well bar one mistake.

“He’s just not as well handicapped this year, but Newbury’s the plan.”

Skelton – Ladbrokes Trophy ‘massively tempting’ for Shan Blue

Dan Skelton admits he is “massively tempted” to head to next month’s Ladbrokes Trophy with Shan Blue.

The seven-year-old was a most unlucky loser in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase on Saturday – when he nonetheless signalled a big season is surely ahead after storming clear of his Grade Two rivals only to take a heavy fall when in a 20-length lead at the third-last.

The exact timing of Shan Blue’s unfortunate departure is highly significant – because he cannot go up in the handicap after an exit at that point, however clear it appeared that he was in control of the race.

For that reason, Skelton acknowledges he and owner Colm Donlon face a “big decision” over whether to take advantage of his unchanged rating of 148 in one of the most famous jumps races in the calendar, on November 27.

Skelton has yet to win the Newbury showpiece – and asked about the chances of trying to do so with Shan Blue, he said: “It’s massively tempting.

“I don’t think the trip is an issue; Newbury as a track is not an issue.

“I’d prefer it to be 10 runners, not 20, but that’s not the Ladbrokes.

“It’s one of the biggies in the calendar, and you sometimes only get one chance in a career to win a race like that – and it’s staring us quite obviously in the face, off 148.

“So you’ve got to take it very, very seriously.”

The Alcester trainer has already chatted to Donlon about the prospect – at Wetherby, as soon as it was confirmed Shan Blue was unscathed following his mishap.

“I had half a discussion with Colm about it yesterday, and we’re both talking about it very professionally and giving it the time of day that it deserves,” Skelton told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme.

“Ultimately, we’ve got a big decision to make. If he’d fallen two out, it’s taken out of the equation … (so) you’ve kind of got to make the decision (now), it’s not been made for you.”

Whether Shan Blue’s next assignment is in handicap company, or Kempton’s King George VI Chase – where he would surely be directly headed if he had stayed on his feet in the Charlie Hall – Skelton is confident major prizes should still lie ahead.

“I think we can all agree we’ve seen something a bit special there, and there are big days to come with him,” he added.

“He’s got the constitution, physical and mental to get over something like this.

“The most important thing is soundness, and he was sound immediately afterwards yesterday – (and) he’s sound this morning.

“We consider ourselves very, very lucky that he is.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an emotional scar here (for the horse). I can’t guarantee it – I can only talk on his behalf the best I know him. He can’t directly tell me there’s not a problem, but I’d be surprised.

“He’s one of the many horses I could say ‘they’re tough enough to bounce back’.”

Cloth Cap out to raise Newbury roof again

Jonjo O’Neill hopes Cloth Cap can realise his late owner Trevor Hemmings’ plan and secure back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury next month.

The nine-year-old crept into the field off bottom weight of 10st in 2020, and powered home by 10 lengths in the hands of Tom Scudamore.

Cloth Cap went on to win a Listed race at Kelso before being pulled up when sent off favourite for the Grand National at Aintree in April.

The Beneficial gelding satisfied O’Neill on his seasonal bow when finishing fourth at Cheltenham last Saturday, and the Cotswolds trainer believes the outing should have primed his stable star for another crack at the famous Grade Three handicap on November 27.

Cloth Cap was pulled up in the Grand National
Cloth Cap was pulled up in the Grand National (David Davies/ Jockey Club)

He said: “If I run anything in the Ladbrokes Trophy, I always try and get them a run first. It’s a pretty hard race early in the season, and in my opinion they need a nice rest after that. Lots of good horses have won it.

“I don’t think we will have 10st this year unfortunately, but it’s a good race to win. It’s great prize-money. It’s probably ‘the’ long-distance race of the early part of the season. We would love to pull it off again. It would be great for the Hemmings family. It is the aim, so we will try.”

Cloth Cap is one of 42 entries for the race – and with a handicap mark of 154, some 18lb higher than last year, O’Neill is well aware he will be nowhere near bottom weight this time.

Cloth Cap had his rivals well beaten last year
Cloth Cap had his rivals well beaten last year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He said: “He was a very well handicapped horse last year, and the big problem then was we were worried that he wasn’t going to get into the Ladbrokes Trophy. He scraped in at the bottom. He did everything well on the day, and Tom got on great with him, so it all worked out really well.

“Obviously he is not as well handicapped this year, but he ran a nice race at Cheltenham. We were very pleased with him and hopefully we can keep him like that, and he will be able to handle the weight.

“He’s not a big horse, but I’ve had plenty of horses like that. Sunnyhillboy was only a handy little horse and only just got beat in the National, so I am not so worried about that.”

Cloth Cap was a third Ladbrokes Trophy winner for Hemmings, following Trabolgan in 2005 and Many Clouds in 2015. After his death earlier this month at the age of 86, his loss is keenly felt by O’Neill.

He added: “Trevor was very important. People like him are the backbone of jump racing. They love it, they are passionate about it. It’s a shame to be losing him.

“He loved the Ladbrokes Trophy. He nearly always tried to have a runner in it. Long-distance chases were his passion.

“This was the plan when the horse came back, to go down the same route as last season.”

Cloudy Glen could also take his chance
Cloudy Glen could also take his chance (Steven Paston/PA)

The Venetia Williams-trained Cloudy Glen may also carry the famous Hemmings silks next month, with his trainer also having the Susannah Ricci-owned Royal Pagaille in the mix.

Ireland’s champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has entered recent Munster National winner Ontheropes as well as Annamix and Brahma Bull, while Henry de Bromhead has nominated Chris’s Dream and Eklat De Rire.

Lostintranslation is one of six for Colin Tizzard – along with Copperhead, Fiddlerontheroof, Mister Malarky, Slate House and The Big Breakaway.

The first three from a contentious finish to the Bet365 Gold Cup – Potterman, Kitty’s Light and Enrilo – are all entered, with the latter possibly seeking to avenge that Sandown result, when he was demoted from first to third.

Ascot on agenda for The Conditional

David Bridgwater has next month’s Dave Dawes Silver Cup at Ascot in mind for The Conditional, after he was placed in the Ladbrokes Trophy for the second successive year.

A Cheltenham Festival winner in March, The Conditional was running off a 9lb higher mark on Saturday than 12 months ago but once again ran with great credit – travelling as well as anything for jockey Brendan Powell until the second-last fence when, like everyone, he was left in Cloth Cap’s wake.

Bridgwater has the Grand National in mind for him this season but will not pass up the right opportunity beforehand if he thinks it presents itself.

“It was a good effort – almost a career-best, for the time being anyway,” said Bridgwater.

The Conditional (red hat) jumps the last still in touch with Cloth Cap
The Conditional (red cap) jumps the last still in touch with Cloth Cap (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He was running against good horses who were hard fit, and we’d just had some minor problems – nothing serious, but things that stopped him cantering for a week, which catches up with you in these races.

“He jumped the ditch, and Brendan just felt him go, and he had he blow, but he kept going. I even thought at the second last we were going to win.”

Bridgwater’s previous flag bearer was The Giant Bolster, who finished in the first four in three Cheltenham Gold Cups under Tom Scudamore – Cloth Cap’s jockey at the weekend.

“Tom gave the winner a great ride – he only had 10st and he sprinted away,” said Bridgwater.

“On good ground, they don’t stop in front.”

“If I’m honest Newbury probably doesn’t play to our strengths, because they don’t come back to you, especially when they are ridden by an assassin like Tom Scu!

“At Cheltenham and the stiffer tracks, it’s harder to do what he did – they don’t get away from you as much and they come back. Ours isn’t ungenuine, but I don’t think we want to hit the front two out or anything like that.

“Look, we’d have loved to have won, of course we would, but to finish third, having been second last year – and it was first time out this year – I thought he’d improved physically and I’m looking forward to his next run now.

“I don’t think we’ll go to Warwick. I don’t think that Classic Chase suited us last year – it didn’t work, so why go back? The only time he’ll go beyond three and a quarter miles is if and when he runs in the Grand National.

“He won’t run over hurdles, I’m not into all that – it’s just not cricket for me. There’s a nice race at Ascot on December 19. It’s normally worth £100,000, but it’s £60,000 this year. He’ll have an entry for that, and we’ll see how we get on.

“If you’ve got dozens of horses for these races you can pick and choose. But it was the same when we had the Bolster – we took every race as it comes.”

Scudamore takes straightforward path to third Trophy victory

Keeping things simple can often be the best route to glory, as Tom Scudamore demonstrated with a fine front-running ride aboard Cloth Cap to secure a record-equalling third Ladbrokes Trophy success at Newbury.

Rarely will victory in one of jump racing’s flagship contests have much smoother than it was for the 38-year-old aboard Jonjo O’Neill’s charge.

While it is the final result that counts, getting a good start can often be overlooked – a factor Scudamore believes was key to the pair’s triumph.

Scudamore said: “I just wanted to get a good start. It’s the first time he has really had the ground since he was placed in the Scottish National.

“I just thought the important bit would be in the first four or five fences, as I didn’t want to get too far back and as I’d never get at them.

“When he winged the first ditch, the second fence, I was thinking I could be in for quite a thrill here, and so it turned out. It was great, very straightforward.”

Getting down to 10st can be difficult for some jockeys, not for Scudamore though, who barely had to break out of his regular routine in order to take up, what would turn out to be, a rare winning ride for O’Neill.

He added: “Siruh Du Lac was taken out at the entry stage, I had ridden for Jonjo a little bit in the past and a bit more for Mr Hemmings and they wanted someone that could commit and do 10st.

“Richie (McLernon) was claimed for Regal Encore and Jonjo (O’Neill junior), with it being 10st, wouldn’t be able to do the weight, so it worked out quite nicely.

“I’m always quite fit and I wouldn’t be letting my weight get away with me, so it wouldn’t be a problem. I was still able to have something last night and just sit in a hot bath for half an hour this morning, but nothing too bad.”

Having eclipsed his father Peter’s tally of two wins in the race, Scudamore was delighted to be able to give O’Neill, who failed to win the three-and-a-quarter-mile prize as a rider, his first victory in the Grade Three as a trainer.

He added: “Jonjo is just about the best trainer of staying chasers there is. He has won the Grand National, Irish Grand National and Gold Cup, he beat me (as a trainer) in the Gold Cup and I forgive him now!

“I’ve won it for the Pipes, Tizzards and Jonjo and that is quite an impressive roll of trainers to win a big race for, so I’m very grateful and Dad and Jonjo go back a long way.

“He has always been very kind to me, so I’m pleased I’m able to reward his faith with a nice winner.”

The stands may have been sparsely populated with only a small number of owners, trainers and racecourse staff dotted about, but it failed to take the gloss off the victory for Scudamore.

He added: “It is sad there are not many people here, but from my point of view, you have to concentrate on the job in hand.

“Yes it would be nice for other people to be here and great for the racecourse, but in the circumstances racing has done a great job.

“Growing up, I always felt it was one of the classic races. To come out and win this again is a great thrill, as it is one of the best races on probably the best course to ride.”