It is one of the most talked-about races of the entire jump season and this Saturday’s edition of the Ladbrokes Trophy promises to provide plenty of discussion, even before the field set off over the famous three-mile-and-two-furlong trip around Newbury.
An unseasonably dry autumn has many trainers praying for the rain to come and if it does not, it could lead to some high-profile withdrawals and market shifts.
The Irish, who last took the spoils with Willie Mullins’ Total Recall in 2017, look to have a strong challenge with Henry De Bromhead’s Eklat De Rire and Mullins’ Ontheropes, while the home team are headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Enrilo and Colin Tizzard’s Fiddlerontheroof.
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Defending champion Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, is likely to return, while Christian Williams’ exciting five-year-old Kitty’s Light could feature en route to future Grand National efforts.
Here is what key connections have said about their intended runners…
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Enrilo (6/1 Sky Bet)
Trainer Paul Nicholls…
“The great thing is he stays and has loads of speed. You need both in the Ladbrokes Trophy. I just think he’s a horse that will suit the race and vice versa.
“We’ll just follow the leaders and keep it simple. This time of year when the ground is good there is no point being dropped in out the back.
“I think he has physically improved a lot this year and what he does next weekend will tell us if we can dream about running him in some better races or whether he is just a handicapper.
“Plenty of good horses have run in this race. You never know if they run well in this where they could end up. I’d like to think he could eventually be better.”
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls believes Ladbrokes Trophy hopeful Enrilo will be perfectly suited to the Newbury contest
Jockey Harry Cobden…
“He’s a little bit quirky but he’s got loads of ability and it looks a nice open Ladbrokes Trophy so fingers crossed we go there with a good chance.
“By no means we’ll be dropping him in. We’ll be riding him fairly prominently but I won’t be turning into the straight and committing from four out.
“I’ll be holding on to him a little bit and deliver him at the last with a bit of company.
“He’s not the type of horse you’d want to clear the last five in front as he’d have a right look around after the last so we have to be fairly switched on with how we ride him.
“He’s ran well before on soft ground but Sandown at the end of the season was probably his career-best so the ground out there is lovely and if it stays like that it’ll be ideal.
“I’m not sure if he’s a Grade One horse but he’s a very good handicapper and hopefully he’s got a few pounds in hand.”
Image: Enrilo (front, right) gallops with rider Harry Cobden at Newbury
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard…
“It’s a huge race in the racing calendar and we’ve been lucky enough to win it twice and have had plenty of placed horses in it so we’re always going to support it.
“Second-season novices have a good record in it and most of ours have been those horses.
“Fiddlerontheroof is probably the best we run in it and it’s exciting.
“He ran a brilliant race in the Colin Parker at Carlisle. He actually broke the track record that day so it was a cracking performance.
Joe Tizzard says he’s excited ahead of Fiddlerontheroof’s run in the Ladbrokes Trophy later this month
“He was ultra-consistent last season and taking on the best novices when our horses weren’t quite right.
“That was probably his best performance ever in the Colin Parker and the Ladbrokes had been on our mind for the second part of last season.
“That’s his target and if we think he’s progressing so off 148 is a lovely mark to be racing off.
“He’s not ground dependant. When he was a novice hurdler he was just a stronger horse so he could handle heavy ground but I think he proved last year he pretty much goes on any ground.”
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Kitty’s Light (10/1)
Trainer Christian Williams…
“He went up six pounds for his Chepstow run so he’s progressed and then the Charlie Hall he picked up about £23,000 in prize money for finishing second and the handicapper didn’t put him up.
“The ground was a bit dead for him at Wetherby but he looks like he’s stepped up this year.
“He won’t run in the winter when it’s really wet so this will be his last run maybe before giving him a nice break.
“We always ride him conservatively and they can get racing early here. Hopefully, he’ll come home well.
“He actually can’t run in the Grand National this year as he won’t be qualified as he is too young but he looks a National type for years to come.”
Welsh trainer Christian Williams has described Kitty’s Light as a ‘Grand National horse for years to come’
Trainer Kerry Lee…
“He’d gone over the top by the spring and didn’t really merit another race as his work wasn’t good enough. As much as I wanted to run him, I couldn’t.
“We put him away and now we’re just waiting for the right ground and the right race. This was earmarked a long way out so fingers crossed we get there.
“He’s not a horse that takes a huge amount of work and this [Newbury Gallops Morning] would be as much as I’d want to do. If this doesn’t put him spot on then we won’t be going.”
Trainer Kerry Lee is hoping a final racecourse gallop at Newbury will put Demachine just right for the Ladbrokes Trophy
Brave Eagle (25/1)
Trainer Nicky Henderson…
“He’s one horse that doesn’t want rain so if it really doesn’t want to rain between now and Saturday week then that’ll be right up his street.
“He’s probably not going to be one of the favourites but he’d have his chance.
“He’s always had the ability. He does tend to drop himself out in races and then he’ll come with a rattle. In a race like this, you can’t afford to give too much ground away but that’s his nature.”
Mister Malarkey (33/1)
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard…
“Mister Malarky has had two runs this season. He was a bit disappointing on his first, but he takes a couple of runs to get sharp and while this is chucking him in at the deep end, he is a good horse when it all clicks for him – you wouldn’t necessarily know when that is going to be.
“But on a going day has plenty of talent and he wouldn’t mind a bit of decent ground if it stays dry all week.”