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Stepping up: why Channon is excited about Whitaker for Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy

Mister Whitaker, winner of the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, will try three miles for a second time as connections aim the seven-year-old at the Ladbrokes Trophy.

The Mick Channon-trained chaser was pulled up on his only previous try at the longer trip, in the Ultima at this year's festival.

Reflecting on that disappointment Jack Channon, assistant to his father, said: "I thought we had him back perfectly for Cheltenham but things just never went right. He jumped off in behind and all he saw were the backsides of other horses. There was a deluge of rain just before the first day and even though he likes soft ground nothing went to plan.

"Thankfully he proved he was back to his best when he won at Cheltenham in April. In all those races I always felt a bit further could be the key to him as he steps up to the next level. He has proven he is a solid 150 horse at two and a half miles but we are hoping he can progress again over three miles."

If Mister Whitaker, who has 11st 5lb in the weights published this week, runs in the £250,000 feature on November 30, it will be his first run of the season as Channon added: "If he runs then he will go straight there. That gives us a couple of weeks to get him ready. He is schooling on Thursday and we could give him a racecourse gallop at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning [at Newbury] on Tuesday 19 November.

"He started off last season in great form but we sort of lost him through December. He ran creditably in the BetVictor Gold Cup and at Ascot behind Cyrname but he just lost that bit of zip."

The Willie Mullins-trained Real Steel, winner of a Grade 2 chase at Down Royal last Saturday, was raised 2lb to a mark of 160 for his defeat of Secret Investor to share top weight of 11st 12lb with stablemate Rathvinden and last year's runner-up Elegant Escape.

Cabaret Queen, the race sponsor's 8-1 favourite and another possible from the Mullins stable, has 10st 12lb and the Nicky Henderson-trained second favourite Ok Corral, who is 10-1, has 11st 3lb.

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