Winter has arrived and with it comes our Ladbrokes Winter Carnival betting tips. We start December with a carnival of top quality horse racing that’ll really set the mood for the festivities that lie ahead. It’s an important month of sport across the board, but the fixtures will have to work hard to upstage Newbury’s Ladbrokes sponsored Winter Carnival.
Two days of racing gets started on Friday 30th where punters have delights such as the Ladbrokes Novices Steeple Chase and Long Distance Hurdle. The bulk of interest lies with Saturday’s schedule however, as racegoers in attendance at the Berkshire course, and those around the UK watching the live coverage courtesy of ITV, settle down for the renewal of some intriguing graded contests.
The curtain goes up with a listed race due off at 12.10m before we get into the day’s highlights. 12.45 brings the Grade 2 John Francome Novices Chase before the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy Steeple Chase lines up at 3.00pm.
With a wide-open field, the latter promises to be the pick of the bunch and bookmakers have done their bit to ensure there’s plenty of value around for backers wishing to try their luck on finding the winner.
That’s no easy task, of course, and is why we have brought in our team of horse racing enthusiasts to help steer you towards profit. Having studied the runners and riders, as well as the form worth knowing, we give our views on how the main event will pan out.
Backing a winner at a lower price than others got it at is no winner at all and that’s the reason we’ve also trawled through the odds comparison sites to ensure your stake money works hard on your behalf and you get the best odds possible on your pick.
The Ladbrokes Trophy is a steeplechase open to horses aged four years old and above and is contested over the 3m 2f distance. It was first run back in 1957 when Mandarin sealed a place in the history books by becoming the debut winner, doing the business for trainer Fulke Walwyn and jockey Gerry Madden, scoring as a six-year-old.
The same trainer made it two on the bounce when seeing Taxidermist come home in front 12 months later for John Lawrence and that is two of seven sent out by Walwyn who dominated this race in the early stages. That list is made up of Mandarin (1957 and 1961), Taxidermist (1958), Mill House (1963), Man of the West (1968), Charlie Potheen (1972) and Diamond Edge (1981). It should be some time before we see a trainer match that effort.
Sticking with the history of the race and Mandarin is one of only three horses who have claimed this title twice. He is in good company too, with the others being Arkle in 1964 and 1965, and the great Denman who clinched the winner’s cheque for connections in 2007 and 2009.
The best you will find from a jockey is the treble won by Willie Robison on Mandarin, Mill House and Man of the West although a few riders have threatened to match that over the years.
Who Will Take Total Recall’s Crown?
Moving to more recent runnings of the Ladbrokes Trophy and the race we see today carries a £200,000 prize pot, which ensures the best and brightest in the field will be in attendance on race day. £113,900 of that goes to the champion and the cash was banked by Total Recall last year for the partnership of Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
The victor went off a 9/2 favourite that year with bookmakers but had a real fight on his hands to get across the line, battling rival Whisper all the way to the post before edging it by a neck in what was a thrilling finish. The second was priced 8/1, with Regal Encore making up the prizes in third at a whopping 66/1.
Who will take Total Recall’s crown when we get down to business on Saturday? Bookmakers think they have a fair idea of how the race with go and wasted no time pricing up their betting market, placing Elegant Escape as the ante-post favourite with 6/1 available with all major firms. Is that enough of an offer to catch the attention of backers?
Closer Look at the Favourite
With a winning favourite last year, it might just tempt a few into parting with their cash early and, for your stake money, you’ll also be getting a really good horse with bags of ability. Colin Tizzard’s runner has won five and placed another five times from 14 races so far and that’s a CV deserving of our attention.
The 6YO gelding made his debut back in 2016 at Chepstow when getting off the mark with a win in a maiden hurdle over 2m 3f and that set the pace for the career that lay ahead. He won each of his first two outings and also arrives on the back of an impressive victory at Sandown last time out.
Going 2-0 early, we didn’t see him back in the winner’s enclosure until December of last year when claiming the John Francome Novices Chase off a starting price of 5/1. Again, it was tight with runner-up Black Corton in behind, beaten less than a length.
In the year that has passed since, Elegant Escape was second at Kempton in the Kauto Star Novices Chase on Boxing Day, behind Black Corton, won around Exeter in the Graduation Chase over three miles in February of this year, was third in the RSA at Cheltenham and third again at Aintree when contesting the Mildmay Novices Chase.
Elegant Escape blasted his way back into the winner’s enclosure on his most recent start when claiming the Sandown Future Stars Intermediate Chase over three miles on Nov 11. He was sent off a tidy 10/3 that day and again showed his stomach for a fight, hanging on to beat Thomas Patrick by ½ a length.
The Main Rivals
There’s little doubt that Elegant Escape is a talented horse who is more than good enough to win what will be a competitive renewal of the Ladbrokes Trophy, but it’s fair to say he doesn’t like to do things the easy way. That can be seen by the narrow margin of victory in each of his wins and we wouldn’t hold it against punters if they would rather oppose the shortest price with a runner carrying more attractive odds.
So, who are the main rivals for glory? The market has Kemboy as second fav and he’s currently available at 8/1 with Unibet. The six-year-old gelding out of Willie Mullins’ yard arrives in cracking form and has won each of his last three outings since falling in the Irish Grand National this year.
A slight blip? His stats would suggest that’s the case and he fired back to claim glory at Limerick when hammering Tombstone by eight lengths, Punchestown beating A Rated by five lengths and, most recently, the Clonmel Oil Chase with Alpha Des Obeaux coming home three behind. Traders rate his chances and it’s difficult to pick holes in him judging by recent form.