1.5pts each-way Copperhead in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at 14/1 (Generally)
The Ladbrokes Trophy has long been an early season highlight that has often provided Cheltenham Gold Cup hopefuls with an opportunity to demonstrate their blue riband credentials. This year’s contest will be no different, as the last two RSA Chase winners, namely Topofthegame and Champ, currently head the betting.
The form of the 2019 RSA Chase looks very solid indeed, with the runner-up, Santini, filling the same berth in this year’s Gold Cup, while the third placed Delta Work twice scored in open Grade 1 company last winter.
Obviously, given the shutdown post Cheltenham, we have no collateral form where Champ is concerned. However, he displayed a Rolls Royce engine when mowing down Minella Indo and Allaho in jaw-dropping fashion, and, in spite of his rather suspect technique of getting from ‘A to B’, he would undoubtedly prove popular if taking his chance, not least because of his unblemished record at Newbury (4/4).
Both Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have completed the Ladbrokes Trophy – Cheltenham Gold Cup double previously, and they therefore know exactly what it takes to triumph. However, Colin Tizzard has also landed those two races with the same horse, albeit in different season’s, and he has saddled the winner of the Newbury showpiece twice in the last 4 years courtesy of subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River and the hardy Sizing Tennessee.
The former Dairy Farmer turned top-class racehorse trainer has also saddled 2018 Welsh Grand National hero Elegant Escape to place second and third respectively in the last two renewals, and I am hopeful that he has another very lively contender this year in the form of COPPERHEAD, who would receive 11lbs from Topofthegame and 8lbs from Champ as things stand.
It’s fair to say that this scopey chestnut gelding attracted plenty of attention in the build up to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and understandably so given the giant strides that he made in such a short period of time. Fifth on his chasing debut at Chepstow last October, Copperhead won his next three starts with the bare minimum of fuss, climbing 30lbs in handicap and leaving connections with a tricky decision regarding his Cheltenham Festival target, with the RSA Chase coming out on top in the end.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be in the Cotswolds, as he could never get involved and gradually weakened before falling at the last. Now, it would be very easy to form the opinion that we have found his level and put a flag in the ground. However, history clearly demonstrates that it is foolish to write off any horse after one disappointing effort, and I am more inclined to believe that Cheltenham perhaps came too soon after his impressive 17 lengths romp in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot, a race that was contested on very soft ground, a theory that may be supported by Robbie Power’s decision to ride Slate House, who was four times the price of Copperhead, instead, albeit he had won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Slate House at Christmas.
It is very easy to presume that an easy winner takes takes very little out of themselves. However, we all know that isn’t always the case, and the effort required to score such an impressive victory at Ascot could easily have emptied the tank. While it should also be noted that Colin Tizzard’s horses simply didn’t fire at Cheltenham all week long, therefore Copperhead’s disappointing effort was no isolated incident.
A nice long summer at grass will have provided ample opportunity to refill that smart racing tank and, having been dropped 2lbs for his Prestbury Park effort, he will return to action with mark of 153, which is high enough in handicapping terms, but perhaps not too high to land a prize such as this, especially when he won’t have the burden of top-weight.
Copperhead ran out an easy winner of the Mandarin Handicap Chase over the Ladbrokes Trophy course and distance last December, and his progressive profile appeals very much in a race of this nature. While he is also versatile in terms of ground, which, as always, is advantageous when striking an antepost wager.
The manner in which the six-year-old effortlessly jumped and galloped three previous Grade 2 scorers into submission at Ascot suggested that he could be a Grade 1/2 performer in the fullness of time, which would make him look fairly well treated off his current rating.
We are safe in the knowledge that this race is his target, and i am very confident that he will be a much shorter price on the day, especially if Champ, whose participation is not guaranteed, doesn’t take his chance.
You can currently back the Sulamani gelding at 16/1 in a place, however, he is 14/1 generally and that seems like fair value given all of the factors listed above.
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