Steve Hughes gives his picks for the big day of the year at Newbury.
We have a cracking card in store. A maximum field for the big race and superb strength in depth amongst the supporting handicaps. I have bets for four of the day’s races.
Newbury 1.15: Highway One O One
Formerly a two miler, I think Highway One O One has more to offer now at a longer trip and could be the value over this 2m6f distance.
He got rid of his rider too early in the contest in the BetVictor at Cheltenham last time to determine where he would have finished, but he had warmed up for that race with a staying on second over 2m3f at Fontwell in a hurdles race. Last term he finished off the season strongly with a number of runs at around 2m4f at Cheltenham.
Twice he was placed on goodish ground (probably found the going too soft for him at the Festival when well beaten). More patient tactics are now being employed with him these days which makes sense as it makes him less vulnerable in a finish and on this flatter track I think he has every chance of staying the extra distance.
Newbury 1.50: Soul Emotion & Mr Pumblechook
One of the class acts on show today at Newbury is Soul Emotion and he can defy top weight and a long absence here as I think he belongs in much classier races than this one.
We have seen him race only three times in Britain and he won his first two over this trip at Sandown by a combined distance of 10l. That prompted trainer Nicky Henderson to pitch the 6yo straight into the top grade last season for the Long Walk at Ascot. He ran a cracker until getting tired over the extended 3m late on. He finished distressed that day and we have not seen him since. However he has had a wind op and has run well fresh in the past. Encouragingly he has shown a tendency to jump left in the past and this is the first time he has been able to go left-handed since coming to Britain which might bring about further improvement.
As an alternative Mr Pumblechook is interesting. He showed plenty of promise as a novice including when a good second at this meeting last year, before easily landing a Plumpton contest. His form tailed off after that but I thought there was enough promise on his handicap debut and seasonal return at Plumpton earlier this month to suggest he is on a fair mark. It could be he is an autumn horse in case this might be the time to catch him.
Newbury 3.00: Mister Malarky, Cabaret Queen & Commodore
A cracking renewal of the Ladbrokes Trophy and I think three darts are necessary.
Mister Malarky has to be forgiven a below par return at Ascot where he never got into any sort of rhythm. However that will at least have put him forward fitness wise for today. Just below the very top level of novices last season, he nevertheless won a Grade 2 at Ascot and was fourth in the RSA at Cheltenham. He looks an ideal type for the top staying handicaps and indeed ran a cracker in his first attempt in one when second on National day at Aintree. Connections have opted for first time cheekpieces today to help sharpen him up and jockey Jonjo O’Neill valuable 3lb claim will be handy.
A couple of years ago trainer Willie Mullins won this with a new inmate he managed to improve stones from another yard in Total Recall. He might repeat the trick with Cabaret Queen. She completely lost her way when with Dan Skelton last season, but made a fine debut for the yard when just touched off at Listowel over 2m4f. She was then a revelation when hacking up in the Munster National at Limerick. She showed she could cope easily with winter ground that day and despite a 20lb hike in the weights, the handicapper might not have caught up with her yet.
I also like Commodore at a big price. He left his hurdles form way behind with a 2-2 record over fences last year, pretty much making all on both occasions with some exemplary jumping. He already had chasing experience in his native France and there is again a possibility he might be a step ahead of the assessor. He did only manage fifth on his return at Bangor three weeks ago, but would have been much closer but for stumbling at the last and that run should have served its purpose of getting him ripe for today.
Newbury 3.40: Magic Saint
A horse who had not convinced with his finishing efforts last season, I though there was plenty of promise in Magic Saint’s fifth in the BetVictor at Cheltenham on his first run after a summer wind op.
That was an undulating 2m4f distance and I suspect he might be more suited to a flatter 2m race such as this. His one win last year was around Wincanton’s tight track over 2m, and he travelled well for a long way before fading up the hill on bad ground at the Festival in the Grand Annual.
His cruising speed served him well on his return and I am sure he is quick enough for this distance, which will also place less emphasis on stamina. This race also represents a slight drop in grade from those recent contests and this galloping track should suit ideally.
0.75pts each-way – Highway One O One – 1.15 Newbury – 14/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)
1pt each-way – Soul Emotion – 1.50 Newbury – 11/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)
0.5pts each-way – Mr Pumblechook – 1.50 Newbury – 6/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)
0.75pts each-way – Mister Malarky – 3.00 Newbury – 12/1 Ladbrokes (1/5 odds 1st 6)
1pt win – Cabaret Queen – 3.00 Newbury – 9/1 general
0.5pts each-way – Commodore – 3.00 Newbury – 33/1 Skybet, Ladbrokes (1/5 odds 1st 6)
1pt win – Magic Saint – 3.40 Newbury – 7/2 Betfred