Thyme Hill speeds home at Newbury to stake claim for staying hurdlers' crown

There is much for fans of jump racing to get excited about in this year’s Ladbrokes Trophy, featuring a big field of intriguing contenders, but there are no Irish raiders and, as a result of Topofthegame’s injury, no real Gold Cup potential on show. This does not look like a year that will throw up a Denman, a Bobs Worth or a Many Clouds and on that basis Potterman (3.00) could prove good enough at 14-1.

Descended from a half-sister to Denman, Potterman is not in that league but still has potential at staying distances and made up masses of ground in the Wincanton straight when pipped in the Badger Beers. He has a handy pull at the weights with Secret Investor for his previous effort at Chepstow and the dry weather means he must be taken seriously.

Vinndication probably wants to go right-handed, while Aye Right looks weighted up to his best. The Conditional, second last year, should go well again while Danny Whizzbang has each-way possibilities despite a reappearance flop at a very different track.

1.50 Newbury Amour De Nuit gets his ground, or something like it, but could be risky on this quick second run back after a long absence. Tea Clipper is a safer option, having had seven weeks to recover from his pleasing Silver Trophy success.

2.05 Newcastle The betting market got a bit queasy about Epatante on Friday, allowing the reigning champion to touch even-money for this Fighting Fifth, but there was no lack of confidence from the trainer. She does not have bundles in hand over a rival like Sceau Royal but her pace should be telling on this dry surface and it is not tempting to go against her.

2.25 Newbury Thyme White and Botox Has will surely get involved and four-year-olds have a fair record in this. But a stronger contender may be the gradually progressive Milkwood, fourth in the Welsh Champion Hurdle last time. That is a really strong bit of form and he has more to offer.

Quick Guide

Chris Cook’s Saturday tips


Castel Gandolfo 12.20 Oscar Ceremony 12.55 Tupelo Mississippi 1.30 The Ferry Master 2.05 Epatante 2.40 Largy Mouth 3.15 The Butcher Said (nb) 

Furius De Ciergues 12.35 Gunsight Ridge 1.08 Didonato 1.43 Ashington 2.18 Dublin Four 2.53 Beach Break 3.28 Tele Red 

Politesse 12.40 Next Destination 1.15 Kapcorse 1.50 Tea Clipper 2.25 Milkwood 3.00 Potterman (nap) 3.35 Ibleo 

Pink Legend 12.47 Rizzardo 1.22 Checkitout 1.57 Guard Your Dreams 2.32 Took The Lot 3.07 Rollercoaster 3.42 Time To Follow

Charming Kid 4.30 The Quiet Rebel 5.00 Little Kitten 5.30 Liberated Lady 6.00 Leo Davinci 6.30 Boy George 7.00 Rovaniemi 7.30 Bombastic

3.15 Newcastle Some of Olly Murphy’s runners have not been seen to best effect lately but The Butcher Said has generally fared well and makes plenty of appeal as he tries a handicap over fences for the first time. His four novice chase outings all suggested he might have a bit in hand on his rating, which has hardly moved since he was second in a hot hurdle race in March.

3.35 Newbury Having been worried out of it on his reappearance at Ascot last month, Ibleo is one to stick with. The winner went up 6lb and was beaten just a neck in a more valuable race next time and the pair were well clear. Ibleo’s finishing effort may be stronger this time. CC

Thyme Hill stakes claim to stayers’ crown

Thyme Hill landed the first blow in what could prove to be a season-long rivalry here on Friday as he held the late charge of Paisley Park, the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner, by one-and-a-half lengths in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle with McFabulous, the favourite, only third. All three are likely to be aimed at the Stayers’ Hurdle in March, while the Long Walk Hurdle next month and the Cleeve Hurdle in January could also bring two or more of Friday’s protagonists together on the road to the Festival.

It took some time for the field to even break into a canter, and the race was more a sprint up the straight than a test of stamina. Thyme Hill, though, was a comfortable winner on the day and Philip Hobbs confirmed afterwards that the six-year-old is the best long-distance hurdling prospect he has trained. “I’ve never had a horse that was even likely for the Stayers’ Hurdle,” Hobbs said. “There is still room for improvement, he would have been pretty fit today but the run would put him right as well.”

Thyme Hill is likely to have one run before the Festival in either the Long Walk at Ascot or the Cleeve at Cheltenham, and both races are now on the schedule for Paisley Park, who was back to something like his best here having finished only seventh when suffering an irregular heartbeat in the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle.

“Fair play to the winner, he’s the new kid on the block,” Aidan Coleman, Paisley Park’s jockey, said. “But from where we left off from Cheltenham in March, we have come an awful long way, bearing in mind he couldn’t raise a gallop and we all know why.

“He has gone around today, travelled with loads of enthusiasm and jumped well. It turned into a sprint, but it was the same for all of them, so we are not making any excuses on that front. Without winning, I couldn’t be happier.”

Six of the last nine winners of the card’s Grade Two novice chase have subsequently won at Grade One level over fences, a list which includes Bobs Worth, Coneygree, Clan Des Obeaux and Champ. Only three went to post for the latest renewal, but Caribean Boy looked up-to-scratch for the contest as he beat odds-on favourite Fiddlerontheroof by four lengths.

“I think the Ryanair [Chase] is the obvious race,” Nicky Henderson, Caribean Boy’s trainer, said. “Two-and-a-half [miles] is perfect for him.” GW


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