Newbury Friday – Analysis of the Berkshire Novices’ Chase & Long Distance Hurdle

Thyme Hill is fancied to go well in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.Thyme Hill is fancied to go well in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday.

Big Names Feature in the Grade 2s on Friday

The Ladbrokes Trophy is the main course on Saturday, but Friday’s starts are more than likely to whet the appetite. Our editor has run through the field of both Grade 2s on an enthralling day at Newbury.

12:40 Ladbrokes Committed To Safer Gambling Novices’ Chase

In the last ten years alone, this Grade 2 for novices has been won by two Gold Cup winners (Bobs Worth, Coneygree), a King George hero (Clan Des Obeaux) and a Ryanair champion (Dynaste). Both Lostintranslation and Cue Card were also beaten in this race so it would be wise to keep this field on side in the near future.

This year’s renewal sees four runner who are split by less than a point in the market. Sustained support for any of them would probably see that horse go off favourite.

As such, we will start the rundown in numerical order, with TEA CLIPPER, who carries a 5lb penalty for winning in Listed company on his chasing debut. Progressive over hurdles last season, there’s a chance he’s a fair bit better over fences. The fourth from the Chepstow race he won was Captain Tom Cat, who won a Grade 2 on his next start and Tom Lacey’s six-year-old looked a natural jumper. 

Arguably an even bigger improver last season was MILLERS BANK for Alex Hales. Two handicap victories at Kempton and Newbury saw him go up a stone, at which point he leaped up to Grade 1 company. However, he took that in his stride, running a cracker to be third in the Aintree Hurdle. He then won comfortably on his chasing debut and would have won by further but for steadying into the last. He’s exciting.

PIC D’ORHY never got going over fences at the beginning of last season, but a change to front-running tactics seemed to bring the best out of his jumping on return. That race may have fallen into his hands, but he was still winning a handicap off a mark of 147, which he wouldn’t have managed without possessing some engine. He is still only six years old and only Millers Bank is rated higher.

It was a horse in the same colours as Pic D’Orhy, Solo, whom NASSALAM got the better of at Ascot when he started out over fences last month. His tendency to adjust left should see Newbury suit him well. He will also be in receipt of a 9lb age allowance as he remains only four years of age. Taking that into account in terms of ratings, he’d be the one to beat and like his opposition, chasing looks like it could bring more out of him.

3:00 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle

Only two horses have won at prices bigger than 7/2 in the Long Distance Hurdle in the last decade. Though when you consider that Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack and PAISLEY PARK have been among the winners, perhaps it’s not surprising.

Paisley Park will look to reclaim the Long Distance Hurdle

Paisley Park will look to reclaim the Long Distance Hurdle

Paisley Park is back for his third crack at this contest (he was beaten by Thyme Hill a year ago). After looking almost unbeatable for the best part of two seasons, he now has a point to prove, as though he finished third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle on his return, he was pretty much the first horse beaten before running on. Having pulled up at Aintree at the end of last season, you can see why cheek pieces are applied. He clearly still has the heart, but a Grade 1 penalty from last season means he continues to concede weight all round.

His biggest challengers look set to be the mares INDEFATIGABLE and MRS MILNER. The former now has a 6lb penalty for winning the aforementioned West Yorkshire Hurdle. That was a career highlight for this very likeable mare and she travelled very smoothly through that contest. This might be more her trip, as it is for Mrs Milner, who stormed home in the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival and won in Listed company on her return. She has untapped potential stepping into open company.

ON THE BLIND SIDE defeated Mrs Milner on their seasonal debuts last season and concedes less weight here, so collateral form gives him a chance. However, he’d prefer a bit more cut in the ground and he’s always fallen short at Graded level. As has THOMAS DARBY who is in danger of appearing tripless, with three miles seeming to overstretch his stamina the last twice, but anything shorter proving too pacy.

And lest we forget LISNAGAR OSCAR, the shock Stayers Hurdler of 2020. He is another whose connections will be praying for rain over the next 24 hours, but his return was encouraging and he’ll be better for stepping back up to three miles.