Anthony Honeyball has poured doubt on the participation of Sam Brown in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
The son of Black Sam Bellamy has recorded all of his wins on soft or heavy ground in the past, and with conditions at the Berkshire track looking likely to be much quicker than that, the Dorset handler has reconsidered his participation in the race.
“I’d say Sam Brown is very, very unlikely. Newbury’s a track that holds up well, so we’ll have to see what rain they get today”, Honeyball told the Tote.
“The race has been everything that we’ve worked towards but that’s no good if the ground isn’t going to be anywhere near right for him.”
A clash with Santini potentially on the cards
What is frustrating for the Honeyball team is that they have their eight-year-old at the top of his game, but conditions seem to have gone against them. However it has led to thoughts of a trip to Aintreee creeping into the trainer’s mind.
“He does seem to be in as good a condition as we’ve had him in a long time, having had the race under his belt. He was ever so accurate at his fences [at Carlisle]. I went up there with high expectations, but in hindsight I was really happy with what he did.”
“We might just put an entry in for the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree the following weekend. I’d imagine horses like Santini will rock up there. He might frighten the others off, so with it being a £50,000 conditions race, it might be worth a tilt. That could catapult us into a whole different ball game if he were to win that.”
Whether he travels to Merseyside or not, Honeyball has pinpointed the Welsh National at Chepstow at the end of December as another option.
“Realistically his best option probably is the Welsh National, the tempo of the race and an undulating track should suit him well and I think he’d have the stamina for it.”
Encore back for more
A more likely runner for the Potwell Farm team is yard stalwart, Regal Encore. Victory at Ascot a fortnight ago showcased that the veteran isn’t done just yet and could make his presence felt at Newbury.
“I’d think he’d have a chance, I really do. He was obviously a few years younger when he was third in the race off 150, but at Ascot this month he looked in the form of his life. He’d love the type of race it is, with the end-to-end gallop, the long straights and he gets the trip well, so it’ll all suit him,” Honeyball told us.
“It’s a £200,000 race that obviously takes a lot of winning, but this renewal looks very open. There’s nothing that stands out that would scare you off, and it looks similar to the sort of race he won at Ascot.”
While his participation is far more likely than his stablemate’s, he’s not 100 per-cent confirmed to take his chance.
“We’ll probably declare him and as long as they come back in from racing on Friday saying it’s on the soft side of good. He’s started winning on soft ground, whereas we never used to think he wanted that, so he’d possibly want a bit more cut these days.”
“He’s obviously gone up the handicap and he’s 12, rising 13, and comes here off a near-peak rating, but it just seems worth a go.”
Grade 1 dream for Acey Milan
Away from the big handicap on the card, Acey Milan could line up in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices Chase on Saturday.
A winner on chasing debut at Aintree last month, the six-year-old could have a top level target on his hooves if he were to win at the weekend.
“My dream is that he’d win on Saturday and we could then put him in the Kauto Star on Boxing Day at Kempton, but we’re obviously a good win away from that, so we’ll see,” explained Honeyball.
“After his bumper form and his second in the £100,000 race at Haydock last season, you’d like to think that is where he would be.”
“He would want more of a test of stamina in general, but off 137 there’s not really a lot of races he can go for at the moment. It’ll be a small field, so he’d have a squeak.”
The likes of Santini, Native River and Thistlecrack have all landed that particular contest in the past five years, so should he land the spoils, Acey Milan might just be one dining at the top table for the rest of the season and beyond.