Leading contenders talk about their hopes for Ladbrokes Trophy

A press conference was held at the Landmark Hotel in London ahead of the £250,000 G3 Ladbrokes Trophy, the three and a quarter mile handicap chase and highlight of the inaugural Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury on Saturday, December 2.

Bryony Frost has lit up Jump racing in November with her high-profile successes on board Present Man and Black Corton, and she has the chance of making further headlines at Newbury this Saturday, December 2.


She is back on board Present Man, trained by her employer Paul Nicholls, in the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy, the second most valuable handicap chase of the season outside of the Grand National.


The 22-year-old 5lb claimer from Devon, in London for only the second time in her life, today spoke of her dreams and life at a media lunch at the Landmark Hotel hosted by Newbury Racecourse and Ladbrokes.


She said: "Calling Present Man special is probably an understatement for me. That day he won at Wincanton (the Listed Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase on November 11) was a good day, a big time in planning. I had teamed up with him at Kempton as a sort to get to know each other situation. I was actually pretty nervous that day because I think if I got beat I would not be in the saddle at Wincanton.


"I had to make sure we got the job done at Wincanton and he managed to tough it out and stay there and with a little bit of luck on the line we managed to hold on.


"He grabbed a hold of me and said what we are doing in the race - I had to agree and did not have much choice about the matter. He is a positive force and normally in a race you have one moment where you think that was a bit close. But there were 21 fences and he flew every one of them for me.


"I just had such a buzz off him, and to get the job down for the owners (Mark & Tessa Woodhouse) and Paul, it was a big day.


"I am from Devon, very feral as it were - this is my second time in London. I said to Paul on the train - 'Paul you are going to have to help me out - I am a little bit nervous about London and people. I said I would need one of those things you put on kids - basically a collar for a child - otherwise I might go wandering off or get in a crowd and be lost'.


"This sort of event is awesome for me to be at. The race is what we do - this is what I have done since I was a little girl - riding horses.


"I know my horse - he knows me - my trainer knows me and has confidence in me. I have confidence in my team and we go there in good stead - he is going to be a 100 per cent because that is what Paul does best.  This (the Ladbrokes Trophy) is the plan and let's see if we can get it done again."


Asked how it feels if she became the first woman to ride the winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy, she replied: "It is not something I think about. I did walk out of the yard and Dave, who is the head lad of the bottom yard, said: "Are you ready to make history Bryony?" I looked at him as though to say what are you on about? He said the first girl to win the Ladbrokes Trophy. I had not even thought about that, which shows how naïve I am.


"Look, it is cool to follow in footsteps - my Dad, while Paul has won the race as a jockey so to be following in footsteps is still good and they are big footsteps to be following in.


"To make history and to make your own path, lay your own concrete and turn left or right at the crossroads is also something you have got to achieve. At the minute, I ride my horse and I keep climbing up the ladder' and every step you take is positive."


Somerset-based Nicholls, successful three times as a trainer and twice as a jockey in the Ladbrokes Trophy, when it was the Hennessy Gold Cup, commented: "Bryony has done very well - she works hard. Julie, who is a great pal of mine from the days we were riding together at David Barons, said can Bryony join you for a year - she might learn something.


"Once Present Man won at Wincanton, all she was interested in doing was getting to work on time so none of the others would give her any stick. She works hard and at the end of the day she rides well and some of those horses run really well for her.


"With Sam (Twiston-Davies - stable jockey) injured at the moment, you need a good backup team - with Harry Cobden, Bryony, Sean Bowen and so on to pick up the reins. They all do well and it is nice to give the youngsters a chance.


"Present Man to be honest has astonished us - two years ago Andy Stewart and Paul Barber owned him and they sold him to the Woodhouses saying he would be lucky to a small race around Wincanton.


"It is a like a lot of horses do - he has just got older and stronger. I don't know where the improvement has come from. But his run the other day gives him every chance at the weekend.


"The question at Wincanton was whether he would get the trip in the ground - three and a quarter miles so stamina was an issue. But obviously it wasn't. A dry forecast this week will help him and he has only 4lb more to carry and with Bryony's claim he will only be carrying 10st 2lb, which is a proper racing weight.


"Present Man is still improving and who knows where he will end up - that was a career best at Wincanton and we see if there is more to come.


"Braqueur D'Or has done nothing but improve. He was rated 109 when he ran over hurdles for us in May and is now on 139. He has done incredibly well and has got 10st. He is in the novice chase as well and has a couple of other options. We will just have a look and see what the owners want to do.


"I won the race (as a jockey) in 1986 and 1987, 10st 5lb (on Broadheath in 1986) how about that! That was a long time ago. Those were the good days and I have been lucky enough to win it three times (as a trainer) with Strong Flow (2003) and Denman (2007 & 2009). It is a great race to win and it will be a great race on Saturday."


Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for Total Recall, the 9/2 favourite with Ladbrokes.


 The eight-year-old was previously trained by the now-retired Sandra Hughes and made a winning debut for his new stable when taking the J T McNamara Ladbrokes Munster National at Limerick on October 8 by an impressive seven lengths.


Mullins said today: "He is by Westerner and when he came down to us we were very happy with him.


"After he worked for us, we thought he could be on a nice mark and after thinking we would go for the Kerry National, we decided to go for the Munster National instead. Everything went well for him at Limerick - he missed a few early fallers and all the schmozzle in the race. He came through and won very handily in the end


"You need a lot of luck in these big handicaps, which we had last time. It's very hard to win two big handicaps in a row but Total Recall is doing everything right at home and I don't know if the handicapper has caught up with him or not.


"If the weights stay as they are at the moment, he has a lovely racing weight. The trip will be fine for him and he jumps well, so he has a lot of things going for him.


"The ground should be fine for him. We know he handles heavy ground but the ground at the moment looks like it will be good to soft, which is perfect jumping ground."


Mullins could also be represented in Saturday's race by Children's List. The seven-year-old was runner-up on his seasonal debut at Limerick on October 8.


The trainer continued: "I was very pleased with Children's List at Limerick - I thought it was a hell of a run.


"He is quite ground dependant and would appreciate no more rain. He is a horse that is coming to himself. We thought of going for the Troytown with him, but the ground yesterday would have been too soft.


"If there is no rain, he will go to Newbury. He is a horse that can win a nice race somewhere."


The third possible Mullins starters on Saturday is Pleasant Company, who was last seen out when ninth in the Grand National at Aintree in April.


Mullins concluded: "Pleasant Company is in great form and was also originally going to run in the Troytown but we have decided to go to Newbury instead. He is in good order and was travelling so well until he made that mistake at Aintree.


"Hopefully, we will get to Aintree with him again next year but he has a lovely racing weight and a good each-way chance on Saturday.


"At the moment, the plan is for Paul Townend to ride Total Recall and we will sort out jockeys for the other two later in the week."


Nigel Twiston-Davies has his string in fine form at the moment, having taken big Saturday prizes with Splash Of Ginge and Bristol De Mai over the past two weekends. He is set to be represented in the Ladbrokes Trophy by Cogry and Double Ross.  


He said: "Cogry has done absolutely nothing wrong. He won well last time at Cheltenham.


"I don't think the handicapper has ruined his mark. I think he has a very good chance, even if the bookmakers don't think so! He was second in the Scottish National and has won at Cheltenham so why not?


"The horse is as tough as nails and I'd be very surprised if he wasn't in there fighting at the end. I think he is a big player.


"Double Ross was third last year and unfortunately unseated my son a fortnight ago and then went on to win the race without a jockey. We probably made too much use of him at Newbury last year and will ride him with more restraint this time round.


"Jamie Bargary will ride Cogry and we will probably put Tom Bellamy on Double Ross."


Reigning champion trainer Nicky Hendiserson is seeking a fourth victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy, following successes for Trabolgan (2005), Bobs Worth (2012) and Triolo D'Alene (2013). The master of Seven Barrows is set to be double-handed on Saturday with Whisper and Vyta Du Roc.


Henderson said: "The Ladbrokes Trophy is our local feature race at Newbury, which is our home course in our home county. We are all looking forward to a huge weekend.


"It was encouraging to see Clan Des Obeaux, who Whisper beat at Kempton, come out and win at the weekend. I know it was only a two-horse race at Kempton but there wasn't much in it.


"Whisper has a good time since Kempton. He schooled on Friday and we will give him another pop before Saturday.


"He has a similar profile to Trabolgan and Bobs Worth. They both won the RSA, whereas Whisper got beaten a nose. To be fair he should have been beaten 24 noses in the RSA - it was only that Might Bite decided to have a detour to the Guinness tent! It was still a great performance, as it was at Aintree when he was second again to Might Bite.


"Whisper is handicapped accordingly and I am not too worried about the hustle and bustle of Saturday's race for him. He will have a cunning rider on board on Saturday in Davy Russell, who gets on with Whisper really, really well. Davy will already have an idea where he is going to go and what he is going to do on Saturday. Davy lets the horse warm to the race and I think the horse has enough experience.


"We had look at the Rehearsal and Becher for Vyta Du Roc, but he is going to run at Newbury in the Ladbrokes Trophy.


"He has 10st 1lb, which Daryl Jacob can't do. We haven't decided who will ride him yet but have a few ideas.


"My optimism comes from the fact he has had a run over hurdles at Aintree, the same day Top Notch ran. We saw how much good it did Top Notch when he won on Saturday.


"If you go back to the last day of the season at Sandown in the bet365 Gold Cup, when he just got beaten. The extra distance helped him at Sandown but you will need to say well in Saturday's race as it will be run at a proper gallop."


Saturday, December 2 will also see the first staging of the £40,000 G2 Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Steeple Chase (Grade 2), run in honour of seven-time champion Jump jockey John Francome MBE.


Francome gave his thought on this year's running of the Ladbrokes Trophy, a race he won on Brown Chamberlin (1983) and Burrough Hill Lad (1984).


John Francome: "It was a surprise to have a race named after me but I am very pleased. It was an honour when Mike Dillon rang up and said they wanted to name a race after me.


"Coneygree is such a good jumper and when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a novice, he gave them a jumping lesson. I think it's difficult to see him out of the first four and I also like Cogry."


Noel Meade went close to winning the Ladbrokes Trophy with Harbour Pilot in 2002 and the Irish handler's representative on Saturday is set to be A Genie In Abottle, who is two from two this season with wins at Galway and Wexford.


Meade said:"It's so far, so good with A Genie In Abottle. It boosted the form a good bit with Mala Beach winning at the weekend and made me feel a bit more confident, although it was Mala Beach's first run for a long time when we beat him.


"It was a good enough performance when he won at Wexford last time as the track wouldn't have suited him because it is very sharp and A Genie In Abottle is a big, awkward sort of horse. He is a better on a galloping track and Newbury should suit him well if he gets over the first three or four fences and into a good rhythm.


"We have runners in this race before, including Harbour Pilot (second in 2002) and if you don't get into a good rhythm, you get so far behind in such a competitive race.


"Sean Flanagan rides on Saturday."


The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree is set to carry top weight of 11st 12lb in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He disappointed when pulling up on his seasonal reappearance in the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 4 but trainer Mark Bradstock was in upbeat mood after Coneygree schooled at Newbury on November 21.


Bradstock said: "Coneygree seems great and I am delighted with him. He went round Newbury the other day and jumped absolutely fabulous. David Bass, who schooled him at Newbury, said he'd have paid to ride him.


"I am not quite sure what happened at Wetherby but it was very, very unlike him to jump like that. There were certainly three jockeys who said the sun was a problem and the horse struck into himself quite nastily. It was just one of those things.


"To a certain degree, we went back to the drawing board after Wetherby. We went back into the school and my son Alfie put him over a few poles. We schooled once at home and then went to Newbury.


"I think the best race he has run in his life was at Punchestown last year, on ground that was probably a bit quick for him. I know he has only run about 12 times in his life but Wetherby was his only real blip and I think we can give him benefit of the doubt.


"Top-weight doesn't really worry me. Having spoken to Richard Osgood this morning, I am glad to hear he thinks it is going to be good to soft or soft at the weekend and there will be covers down on the take-offs and landings. I am happy to see the race run on better ground than heavy ground with a big weight like that.


"He has carried big weights and is 17.2 hands. He is not like his mother or me - we are short arses!


 "I am sure he will run a big race on Saturday. I am quietly confident."


Harry Fry is set to saddle American on Saturday. The seven-year-old is unbeaten in three starts over fences, ending last season when taking a novices' handicap under top-weight at Uttoxeter in March.


Fry said: "We have been very happy with American's progress since he came back in over the summer. Due to his fragility, it has always been the plan to go straight for the Ladbrokes Trophy.


"It is obviously going to be a big ask first time out but he did nothing wrong last year - when he three out of three over fences - and he has an ideal profile for the race as a second-season chaser. He had two gallops that brought him along nicely and Noel sat on him last week at Newbury.


"American makes us work hard. We have to work backwards with our plans for big races but he still has to do the required work at home. Thankfully, he has come through his work at home with flying colours and is all set for Saturday.


"It's no secret that his knees are not great and that is why we need slow ground for him. Looking at the forecast, it should be ideal on Saturday.


"It was a very hard decision not to go to Cheltenham to the RSA but it was the right call to make and he duly repaid us by winning so well at Uttoxeter.


"It is very much the plan for Noel Fehily to ride on Saturday. He wouldn't run on good ground but that looks unlikely to be the case at Newbury given the rain that has already fallen and the fact that ground doesn't dry quickly at this time of year. There are no real concerns on that front."