Punchestown - At The Races

Cheveley Park eyeing more big-race success with Ontheropes in Trophy test

    Prominent owner saw A Plus Tard hack up at Haydock last week.
  • Friday 26 November 2021
  • News

Ontheropes bids to provide Cheveley Park Stud with yet another big-race victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.

While better known as a major player in breeding and Flat racing circles, Cheveley Park has enjoyed remarkable success in the jumping world in recent seasons with a relatively small pool of horses.

Allaho and Envoi Allen are among those to carry the red, white and blue colours to Cheltenham Festival glory, while A Plus Tard blew his rivals away in last Saturday’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.

This weekend the team are chasing another top tier National Hunt prize, with the Willie Mullins-trained Ontheropes many people’s idea of the most likely winner.

Cheveley Park Stud director Richard Thompson said: “Last weekend was very exhilarating and I’m looking forward to going to Newbury.

“Can we win the two big races on two Saturday afternoons in a row? I don’t think so, but we’re going there with a big chance.

“We’ve had seven winners from 15 runners at Cheltenham and we’ve won 14 Grade Ones now, which includes three Champion Bumpers, a Ryanair, a Ballymore, a Savills and a Betfair Chase – it’s unbelievable.”

Ontheropes looked fairly ordinary after his first four starts over fences, but a made a big step forward when runner-up to esteemed stablemate Monkfish on his sole start of last season at Fairyhouse.

He returned from almost a year on the sidelines to win last month’s Munster National at Limerick, a race Mullins landed four years ago with Total Recall, who went on to follow up at Newbury.

“Willie seems happy with him and hopefully he has still got a few pounds in hand,” Thompson added.

“He looked the part (at Limerick), but I’m just thinking after last Saturday, surely it can’t happen again this weekend. The success we’ve had is hard to put into words.

“As long as he runs well and jumps well and finishes the race in a good place, that’s great.”

Ontheropes is one of three runners for Mullins, along with the Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned pair of Annamix and Brahma Bull, while a formidable Irish contingent also includes Eklat De Rire.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge unseated Rachael Blackmore at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but made an excellent reappearance at Wexford last month.

“Second-season novices seem to have a good record in it and he has that profile,” said De Bromhead.

“It was probably a bit early to gauge it (at Cheltenham), but he seemed to be going well and Rachael was happy with him. It was a bit unfortunate.

“We really like him and think he’s a very good horse. Whether he can make that step, we’ll find out on his next couple of runs really.

“We were happy to pitch him in at Cheltenham last season and when you’re up at that rating, I wouldn’t like to be predicting how far they can go – I prefer them to go out and do it themselves.

“He’s a horse we think a lot of and we’re looking forward to it.”

One of the leading hopes for the home team is Enrilo, who bids to provide Paul Nicholls with a sixth Ladbrokes Trophy success.

The Ditcheat handler won back-to-back renewals of the prestigious handicap as a rider aboard Broadheath and Playschool in the 1980s, while Strong Flow provided him with a first win as a trainer in 2003.

The brilliant Denman won under a welter burden of 11st 12lb in both 2007 and 2009 – and in Enrilo Nicholls believes he has another serious contender.

He said: “He’s fine. He schooled on Thursday morning. I’m very happy with him.

“He went to the gallops day at Newbury last week and did some work there. He won’t need the run, I’d have thought.

“I’ve been very happy with his preparation.”

Last year’s winner Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, bids to become only the fourth dual winner of the prestigious contest – and the first to go back-to-back since Arkle in the 1960s.

He will be ridden by Tom Scudamore, who said: “It’s going to be a lot harder off an 18lb higher mark, but the way he went and won it last year, you would be hard-pressed to say he wouldn’t have won it with another 18lb on his back.

“Having said that, this year we have some Irish horses coming over that look pretty unexposed and you have to give them the utmost respect.”

Fiddlerontheroof mixed it with the best novices around last season and was not winning out of turn on his return to action in the Colin Parker Memorial Chase at Carlisle.

He is one of three runners for Colin Tizzard along with Copperhead and Mister Malarky.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “Fiddlerontheroof goes in there with the best form. He did it nicely at Carlisle and we couldn’t be happier with him at home.

“It’s a competitive race, as it always is, but he goes in there ticking lots of boxes.

“Copperhead is a classy horse on his day, but just wasn’t right all of last season. He seems well at home. I would have loved to have got a prep run into him, but we couldn’t because the ground.

“He’s working well and schooling well and I think he’s back to somewhere near his best, which would give him an each-way chance.

“Mister Malarky has had a couple of runs and ran quite nicely at Ascot last time. It’s not easy to judge when he’s right, but on his day he’s quite talented.”

Christian Williams has high hopes for Charlie Hall Chase runner-up Kitty’s Light, saying: “It’s great to have a horse running in these type of races that we think has got a genuine chance.

“Three runs ago he did all bar win the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, he had a lovely first run back at Chepstow and then he was second in the Charlie Hall in ground that a bit sticky for him.

“We’ll see how we get on. He’s a horse we hope could be running in Grand Nationals at some stage, or if he keeps improving he might even make up into a Gold Cup horse.”