Horse Racing: Pat Cooney’s Long Distance Hurdle and Ladbrokes Trophy preview

25 November 2021 22:18:41 GMTPlus11

There are two fascinating races over the next two days as Paisley Park looks to repeat his 2019 success in Friday’s Long Distance Hurdle, before the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday, with Ontheropes, Fiddlerontheroot, Eklat De Rire and Enrilo tough to split at the top of the market.

Starting with the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury – it’s a small field, but good to see Paisley Park (2.80) in the race and of course he’ll head the market. Are we with him or are we against him?

When I got the entries through I thought we can maybe get this fella beaten because, although he won this race two years ago and he looked pretty formidable that day, he can’t be as good as he was then.

Two years is a long time and I thought he was going to be vulnerable, but the more I think about it, the more I keep coming back to his chances, particularly as he’s wearing cheekpieces for the first time, which I think is going to be a real benefit to him.

He ran okay at Wetherby, which is a sharp, flat track, which doesn’t really play to his strengths; he’s better off at Newbury where I think he’ll get a better gallop.

I can see Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side (12.00) popping out and making the running at a decent gallop, giving Paisley Park a better set of circumstances on Friday, and he’s still the formbook horse of the race; he’s got at least six pounds in hand and beyond on his rivals.

There are more reasons to be with him than against him, but I completely get that the bookmakers will be looking at him thinking ‘well if he isn’t as good as he used to be and if the cheekpieces don’t work, he may just be beatable, so I can see him being opposed in the market.

I’ve tried to be against him, but I keep on coming back to him. I think the cheekpieces will work the oracle, so Paisley Park for me.

Moving onto Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, and from an ante-post point of view we’ve been betting on this race for several weeks now, and the initial set of prices are based very much on stats.

Everyone will tell you, in this race you want to go for a second-season chaser, preferably a seven-year-old and preferably one representing one of the top four stables in the country – and that’s what we’ve got. The front four in the market are all carbon copies of that.

We have Ontheropes of Willie Mullins (9.00), a lightly-raced seven-year-old who won well at Limerick last time out, but that was on softer ground, and I think the key to his chances would be more rain.

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Eklar De Rire represents Henry De Bromhead (6.00); another unexposed type, progressive and ticks an awful lot of boxes, but again all his form has been on softer ground, so this market can transform depending on how much – or how little – rain we get.

Fiddlerontheroof (5.50) represents the Tizzard team who are absolutely flying at the moment. He ran well last year, but like a lot of the Tizzard horses, didn’t run to his best. I think he can be marked up for his achievements last season and is very much in the equation.

But I keep coming back to Enrilo of Paul Nicholls (6.50) whose best days are in front of him. The last time we saw this guy was at bet365 Gold Cup day at Sandown. He was first home but was disqualified for veering left on the run-in, impeding a few horses, and was put down to third.

I actually think he’s a very well handicapped horse because if he hadn’t have hung left I think he’d have won by three or four lengths. He’ll appeal off a mark of 147 at Newbury on Saturday.

Veering left on the right-handed track of Sandown, you would imagine the left-handed track of Newbury would suit better. He’s won there before and I think he’ll take a good deal of beating.

It’s a high-class renewal and I think whatever wins will go on to have a very good season.

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