The two-mile maiden hurdle on the Friday of Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting might not be one of the highest-profile contests of the two-day fixture but in the long run it could easily prove one of the most important races of its type run all season.
At least that’s the conclusion to be drawn from looking at some of the horses who figure on the race’s recent roll of honour along with some of those who’ve been beaten in it.
Nicky Henderson has won it five times since 2010 and has chosen this year’s contest for the much awaited hurdles debut of Jonbon, the brother of Douvan who was bought by J. P. McManus for a record £570,000 around this time last year after winning an Irish point. Jonbon made a winning debut for his new connections in a bumper, also at Newbury, last March.
Among Henderson's past winners, the likes of Kid Cassidy (a future Shloer Chase winner, also owned by McManus), Different Gravey and Jenkins all proved above-average performers, with the last-named beating Bags Groove, later a smart novice chaser, when successful in 2016.
However, Henderson’s most notable winner came in 2015 with another in the McManus colours, Buveur d’Air. His only defeat later that season came when third in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before he went on to win the Champion Hurdle at the next two Cheltenham Festivals. But Buveur d’Air wasn’t the only good horse to come out of that year’s race. Runner-up Wait For Me was a useful winner over both hurdles and fences, while the fourth Bun Doran went on to win a Desert Orchid Chase and West Approach, another who became a smart chaser, was further down the field.
West Approach’s trainer Colin Tizzard won the 2017 renewal of this race with another of his star names, top-class chaser Lostintranslation, who returned to winning form at Ascot last Saturday, his first success since landing the Betfair Chase two years earlier.
That proved to be another renewal of the Newbury race with strength in depth as the fourth, Black Op, won the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle later that season after finishing second to Samcro in the Ballymore at Cheltenham. There was also a future Festival winner in the field, as the third, Simply The Betts, went on to win the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate in 2020.
Besides Lostintranslation, another Grade 1 winner over fences to come out of this race was last season’s Ascot Chase winner Dashel Drasher. He finished third in the 2018 renewal which was won by Bright Forecast for Ben Pauling, another who went on to be placed at the Festival when third in the Ballymore later that season.
Henderson was represented in last year’s race by another hurdling debutant in the McManus silks who, like Jonbon, came with a tall reputation founded in part on a top-class pedigree. But Sprinter Sacre’s brother Flinteur Sacre, sent off the 2/5 favourite, pulled too hard and wound up finishing only fourth.
Even so, the race maintained its excellent record of throwing up a future star.
My Drogo made a perfect start to his hurdling career for Dan Skelton and remained unbeaten over the smaller obstacles for the remainder of the season which he ended by winning the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Regardless of his blip on his recent chasing debut at Cheltenham, like most of the most notable graduates from this race, My Drogo looks another who’ll go on to better things over fences.