ROBERT COOPER WRITES
TV man picks his fancies for the weekend
In my sheltered experience the word ‘penalty’ rarely heralds good news, it bears a punitive ring. The trembling goalkeeper attempting to intercept a missile from a spot 12 yards away does certainly not welcome it. A penalty is also very ominous for the motorist caught speeding; you are awarded penalty points but there is no prize-giving ceremony. And in racing, carrying a penalty can make the difference between victory and defeat.
Of the three mentioned above, I can only vouch for the speeding variety. I committed a heinous crime earlier this month on the M25 motorway en route for Lingfield Park.
I was photographed travelling at 62 mph in a 50 mph limit – I reckon I deserve a medal for this unintentional attempt at breaking the sound barrier; achieving any speed above stationary is rare on this hateful highway. In racing parlance, I will be a loser without a penalty as I have been invited to enrol for a speed awareness course; it’s the first date in my 2019 diary.
A winner with a penalty is the well-fancied ELEGANT ESCAPE, a leading fancy for today’s Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury. He carries an extra four pounds for beating THOMAS PATRICK [3.00 NEWBURY] in a recent encounter at Sandown.
On five pounds better terms, I fancy Tom Lacey’s young chaser, not only to gain revenge but win this top steeplechase.
He was surely the moral victor of a thrilling race, making all the running until collared by ELEGANT ESCAPE in the shadows of the post. You may not think that the burden equivalent to a large bag of sugar would make any difference to a strapping steeplechaser but cast your mind back 12 months when WHISPER failed by a dwindling neck to repel TOTAL RECALL from getting up on the line. He too had a similar penalty.
I’d fancy THOMAS PATRICK anyway as he has plenty in his favour; the recent rain will cerBEDROCK, tainly have been welcomed by his in-form trainer, he’s won here at Newbury prior to following up in a Grade 3 chase at Aintree, and he’s got the champion jockey Richard Johnson in the saddle. He’s also in the right age bracket – only a six year-old but the same age as NATIVE RIVER, winner of the race in 2016.
By the time the runners for the Ladbroke Trophy face the starter at Newbury, it will be around an hour after the result is known for undeniably the highest quality Fighting Fifth Hurdle for many a season. Like last weekend’s Betfair Chase [which I pondered incorrectly, although NATIVE RIVER ran a cracker] I have been chewing over the Fighting Fifth while, at the same time, considering the venue for my Speed Awareness Course – it’s not unlike enrolling for a university degree.
SAMCRO was mightily disappointing when beaten by BEDROCK at Down Royal but the Gordon Elliott camp can bank on a more polished effort today, although I don’t think that result was a fluke; Ian Jardine’s partnered again by Rachel Blackmore, could be the value joker in the six-pack. Supreme Hurdle victor SUMMERVILLE BOY makes his seasonal debut and again Tom George’s hurdler isn’t making the 500 mile round trip just for fun, neither is the reigning Champion Hurdler BUVEUR D’AIR [2.05 NEWCASTLE]. He was the winner of this race 12 months ago, although his task this time is far sterner.
BUVEUR D’AIR’s record is 10 wins from 11 races over hurdles, his sole defeat was when third to the mighty ALTIOR in the 2016 Supreme Hurdle. His lightning fast speed over hurdles could be a crucial asset in a truly riveting renewal.
I’ve become a big fan of WHATMORE [2.25 NEWBURY] since his sterling effort at Chepstow when he was third in the Silver Trophy Hurdle, he has since made all the running to win a decent handicap at Bangor and Henry Daly’s hurdler deserves a crack at this listed hurdle. He’s tough and the stable has been banging in the winners this autumn.
I’m hoping that LADY BUTTONS [3.35 NEWBURY] makes the long journey from Phil Kirby’s North Yorkshire base a winning won. She returns to chasing after landing the listed Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby last month. She’s a decent hurdler but I reckon she could become a star over fences – she’s won two from three so far – and the two mile trip looks ideal.
Her only defeat over fences was in a Grade One at Aintree, when she was by no means disgraced.
It’s been a quiet week on the racing front, although I have a few jaunts inked in this month, starting at Fakenham on Tuesday. I’ll keep every digit crossed that the recent rain leads to more runners than the puny turn out a fortnight ago. This excellent little track deserves to be supported, especially with excellent prize money on offer.
I’ve watched a few races on TV and by far the most impressive was MENGLI KHAN’s chasing debut at Punchestown on Wednesday – there’s a long way to go but his current quote of 7/1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham is tempting. It was about this time last year that FOOTPAD produced a similarly impressive debut, and I waded in then and will probably do so again with MENGLI KHAN.
It’s a shame I can’t invest with my recently acquired Co-Op vouchers. I parted company with £4s worth on some red onions, blueberrys and a bag of tomatoes.
When at the checkout I commented to the assistant that having spent millions in this particular branch, the points take a long time to accrue, her speedy reply of “if you’ve been on a cruise, I’m not surprised you’ve got nothing to spend” left me flummoxed.
“On five pounds better terms, I fancy Tom Lacey’s young chaser, not only to gain revenge but win this top steeplechase”
Champion: Richard Johnson
Deserves his crack: Whatmore