Former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree will attempt to carry top weight to victory in Saturday's Ladbrokes Trophy, but the Mark Bradstock-trained ten-year-old will face a plethora of notable rivals in Newbury's showpiece event, with the likes of Total Recall, American and Whisper all looking major players in what will be the highlight to a cracking couple of day's racing at the Berkshire venue.
Pulled up in the Charlie Hall Chase on his first start of the season, Coneygree has struggled in recent times to replicate the form he showed when storming to Gold Cup glory as a novice, and he is as big as 14/1 with Betfred for this event, which was known for decades as the Hennessy Gold Cup, and it's going to be a gargantuan ask to give weight to some progressive rivals, so punters are likely to look elsewhere.
Willie Mullins has won most marquee prizes on British soil, but the master of Closutton has failed to land victory in this race, but in Total Recall he saddles a real live contender, who was last seen easing to a facile victory over subsequent Graded winner Alpha Des Obeaux in the Munster National, and the Irish raider is a best-priced 5/1 with Ladbrokes.
This will be a much tougher ask for the eight-year-old, who will be piloted by Paul Townend, with Ruby Walsh out injured, but if he is to become a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender for March, then he will have to win comfortably off his current mark, if he is to break into the top-class Graded company at the spring festivals.
However, those looking to pile into the Mullins' hotpot must step in with some trepidation knowing that Mullins has failed to saddle a winner of a British handicap chase in over 11 years, which has seen 96 contenders line up and fail to get their heads in front, so many may avoid Total Recall, and look towards some of the home brigade at the head of the market.
American (7/1 with Ladbrokes) was an exciting novice last season, winning three on the bounce, and he will look to propel into the big time here for Harry Fry, while former top-class hurdler Whisper (8/1) was a fine second to Might Bite in the RSA Chase, and he will look to be another Nicky Henderson-trained raider landing victory in this race, while Vyta Du Roc (12/1) will add more depth to the Seven Barrows charge.
Singlefarmpayment (7/1) and A Genie Ina Bottle (12/1) are another brace of fancied runners looking to record success in the race, while recent Badger Ales Trophy winner Present Man (16/1) and last year's runner-up Carole's Destrier (25/1) are just another couple of bigger-priced runners aiming to land this prestigious prize at 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
Friday's card at Newbury will provide some sparkling action, and the main highlight will see two National Hunt stars do battle as Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry lock horns in the Long Distance Hurdle at 3pm, with the former aiming to return to the track with a win after a lengthy layoff, while the latter will be aiming to build on a victory at Aintree a few weeks ago.
A fine winner of the Stayers' Hurdle two years ago, Thistlecrack strutted his stuff over fences last season, with his King George VI Chase success one of the season's highlights, but not seen since Cheltenham in January he will make his hotly-anticipated return to the track on Friday, and Colin Tizzard has certainly not handed him an easy task as he faces winning machine Unowhatimeanharry, who has become the most consistent staying hurdler in training, and while Thistlecrack is the 11/0 favourite with Betfred, Unowhatimeanharry is only 2/1 with William Hill, so the pair should produce a fine contest on Friday.
Elsewhere At The Two-Day Meeting
As well as witnessing that aforementioned duel in the Long Distance Hurdle, Friday's racegoers will be able to see Yanworth and Willoughby Court do battle in the Grade 2 Berkshire Novices' Chase, as the former aims to bounce back from a tumble last time out over fences, and that pair will face the Paul Nicholls-trained Adrien Du Pont in what is a fascinating renewal.
With Buveur D'air a red-hot favourite for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday, the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury can often throw up a potential Champion Hurdle candidate and Charli Parcs is entered for that contest, and could look to start the campaign with a win, if declared, while there's a host of competitive handicaps throughout the two days for punters to get their claws into.
Bring it on!
2017 Ladbrokes Trophy Odds
Odds will appear once available.
Odds correct as of 11th Apr, 04:01 . Odds are subject to change.