As the festive season fast approaches, Christmas comes early for many Jumps buffs this weekend when Newbury stages its second Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.
The two-day, sometimes three-day, meeting has always been essential viewing, but it has been given a deserved shot in the arm by Ladbrokes’ sponsorship, which has boosted both its prestige and its prize money. The purse for the 14 races now totals more than £700,000.
The centrepiece is Saturday’s £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy, formerly known for so many years as the Hennessy Gold Cup, and widely regarded as the best chasing handicap outside of the Grand National.
With only 13 runners declared, the field for this year’s race is the smallest since 1999 when Ever Blessed triumphed for blast-from-the-past Mark Pitman, son of the legendary Jenny. But it still looks a competitive heat, with the anticipated Soft ground and gruelling demands of the contest appearing to be right up the street of the admirable mare, MS PARFOIS, trained by Anthony Honeyball.
Harry Fry’s AMERICAN is another for whom the contest appears tailormade, and although Colin Tizzard saddles the likely favourite, ELEGANT ESCAPE, his second string, SIZING TENNESSEE, should not be discounted at a working man‘s each/way price.
But whoever ploughs through the Berkshire mud tomorrow, will they be able to scale the heights of these former winners of the great race? It’s a top ten, kindly put together by Newbury to whet our appetite for this weekend’s compelling action.
MANDARIN (1957 and 1961)
Mandarin was successful in the first edition of the race at Cheltenham in 1957 when he defeated the Gold Cup winner Linwell. Mandarin was also victorious when the contest switched to Newbury, following up with a second victory in 1961 and thereby providing trainer Fulke Walwyn with the first two of his record seven winners. After the 1961 triumph, Mandarin went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and France’s greatest Jump race, the Grand Steeplechase de Paris. The small but admirably tough horse was owned by Peggy Hennessy, from the family of the original sponsor.
MILL HOUSE (1963)
Winner of one of the most famous renewals, Mill House scored as a six-year-old under 12 stone in 1963 to become trainer Fulke Walwyn’s fourth winner of the race. Mill House had won the previous season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and followed up his Newbury victory by taking Kempton’s King George VI Chase. Mill House’s victory in the 1963 contest at Newbury is the only race in which he beat Arkle (11st 9lb), who finished third after slipping badly three fences from home.
ARKLE (1964 and 1965)
Arkle’s two victories are the greatest seen in the race’s history. ‘Himself’ won under 12st 7lb in both years, defeating Ferry Boat by ten lengths in 1964 and Freddie by 15 lengths in 1965. The greatest chaser of all time, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times, attempted a Hennessy hat-trick in 1966. Making his seasonal debut, he went down by half a length to the very useful Stalbridge Colonist, who was in receipt of 35lb.
Bregawn gave trainer Michael Dickinson his first and only victory in the race when successful under Graham Bradley in 1982. Carrying 11st 10lb, he got up to beat stable companion Captain John by three lengths. Bregawn went on to lead home the trainer’s ‘Famous Five’ in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
BURROUGH HILL LAD (1984)
The great Burrough Hill Lad made light of his 12st burden when taking the 1984 renewal by four lengths under John Francome, justifying 100/30 favouritism. Trainer Jenny Pitman’s best-ever horse had won the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous season and followed up his Newbury win by taking the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park.
ONE MAN (1994)
One Man carried the minimum of 10st to victory in 1994 when an unexposed six-year-old. The grey, trained by the late Gordon Richards in Cumbria, became one of the most popular chasers of the 1990s, taking the King George VI Chase twice before dropping back to two miles for a famous victory in the 1998 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
TEETON MILL (1998)
The horse that put trainer Venetia Williams on the map, the grey Teeton Mill rose from the hunter chase ranks to win the 1998 running impressively by 15 lengths under Norman Williamson. The first runner for Williams in the race, he was subsequently successful in Grade One company in the King George VI Chase and the Ascot Chase.
DENMAN (2007 and 2009)
The best winner of the current century, Denman twice defied top weight when victorious in 2007 and 2009. He followed up his 2007 win by defeating stable mate Kauto Star in the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup and was also runner-up in the Gold Cup in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The Paul Nicholls-trained chaser made a gallant hat-trick attempt at Newbury when third under top weight in 2010.
MANY CLOUDS (2014)
Although a number of Grand National winners have run in the Ladbrokes Trophy/Hennesey Gold Cup, most notably Red Rum
who was runner-up to Red Candle at Newbury in 1973, no horse had managed to win both until Many Clouds in 2014/2015. Oliver Sherwood’s charge, a hugely popular local winner at Newbury, was one of the best recent victors of the National when defying 11st 9lb at Aintree four months later, with Leighton Aspell in the saddle both times.
NATIVE RIVER (2016)
Native River followed up success in the 2016 Ladbrokes Trophy with another major handicap chase victory in the Welsh National at Chepstow the following month. Trained by Colin Tizzard, he returned to Newbury to capture two renewals of the Grade Two Betfair Denman Chase and gained a thrilling all-the-way success in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.