Matt Brocklebank runs through the final field for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and fancies a thriving nine-year-old to run them ragged.
One of the success stories of last season and no sign of a hangover following busy 2017/18 when running a mighty second on his comeback in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby. Bryony Frost's amazing recovery rightly took the plaudits, but the horse looks capable of winning more big races this season if stepping up on that effort, with connections potentially eyeing the King George at Kempton, where he was so good last term. This is no easy task, however, and chances are he'll bump into some better-treated rivals.
Narrow victory over Thomas Patrick at Sandown means he picks up a 4lb penalty here but it was clearly a positive return to action, following wind surgery over the summer. Behind Black Corton in the Kauto Star at Kempton last December but still improving by the looks of things and might have a couple of pounds in hand if maintaining that progression.
Fragile and lightly-raced eight-year-old who has shown glimpses of top-class form, though last season never really took off and it started with him being pulled-up in this race. Returns off just 3lb lower and though connections have opted for a 5lb claiming rider, it's hard to get overly excited about him given the gruelling nature of this particular event. All four career wins in relatively small fields.
Progressed quite quietly over fences but signed off last term with a fantastic second of 16 from a mark of 143 in a big novices' handicap in April. Caught the eye in a big way on his return to action over hurdles here last month and seemingly aimed towards this prize from some way back. Needs another career best but that looks a distinct possibility given he's still only six and expected to relish any further deterioration of the ground.
Flew through the ranks last season, winning three of his four chase starts, and went down all guns blazing when beaten in the closing stages by Elegant Escape at Sandown last month. Better off at the weights here as a result and likely to be given a bold sight of his fences by Richard Johnson. Made virtually all the running when scoring over this course and distance back in March.
Not your typical 10-year-old handicap chaser as he was still a novice last season and acquitted himself well in some seriously good races. Made light work of an easier opportunity on his comeback at Fontwell and although up 5lb for that, the win will have done his confidence good and he looked a bit burly in the preliminaries. Tom Scudamore keeps the ride.
BEWARE THE BEAR
Won on this weekend last year when taking the Rehearsal Chase despite his saddling slipping. Things didn't go his way subsequently but fourth in Ultima at Cheltenham Festival wasn't far off his best form and eased a little in the weights since then. Undergone wind surgery since April and first time out might just be the time to catch him.
One win over three miles last November but most of his best efforts have come at slightly shorter distances and there'll be no hiding place in this company. Still 5lb higher than for that most recent victory and overall body of form suggests he'll find some of these stronger stayers too good on the day.
Heavy-topped mare who hits the ground hard so unsurprising she's really at home in testing conditions. A model of consistency through last season when winning three times and ending the year with three runner-up efforts, the latter of which in Grade One company at Aintree. Had shown prior to that when second in the four-miler at Cheltenham that she's all about stamina so no concerns on that front, while a mark of 146 looks perfectly workable.
No prep run makes life tough against some race-fit, grizzled stayers. Won after a break when opening chase account at the first time of asking at Exeter in February and came good again in a handicap at Perth when last seen in April. Resumes off 7lb higher with the promise of more to come but opposable on balance despite the ground coming in his favour.
The second Grade One winner in the field, along with Black Corton, but he's failed to add to that 2017 Manifesto victory at Aintree despite a few experiments regarding trip. Moving back up to three miles-plus does look a positive on the whole but no more than fairly treated by the handicapper based on last season's efforts, despite the fact he's officially 4lb ahead of the assessor. Has won on good and heavy going so no issues over the weather.
Never got going at all and eventually pulled up by Richard Johnson when well backed for the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham. That on the back of a pleasing comeback run over three miles and a furlong at the Showcase Meeting so hard to know what to expect. No doubt he's handicapped to win again before long but he's been a bit of a soft finisher in the past and might be better off in a small field where he can stay out of trouble.
THE YOUNG MASTER
Had a colourful career but right back to form this season by the look of things, winning a nice pot at Chepstow, form which has worked out well including his own subsequent triumph at Cheltenham. Scored by eight lengths despite pricking his ears after the last there and he's consequently 3lb well-in under a 4lb penalty. Should be suited by the way this race is run and good to see him back for another crack three years on from his unseat at the first fence in the 2015 running.
Not a vintage renewal by any means but some fascinating second-season chasers with plenty of potential to improve beyond their current marks. Thomas Patrick and Elegant Escape feature highly in that particular bracket, along with Dingo Dollar and solid mare Ms Parfois.
However, one horse we know for certain is well handicapped is THE YOUNG MASTER, who looks to have returned right back at the top of his game this season and bolted up under a positive ride at Cheltenham last time.
He's always looked the type to win a race of this nature and will never get a better chance given he's 3lb well-in and in the form of his life.
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