Ruby Walsh: My preview of the three big ones at Newbury on Friday and Saturday

Can Total Recall get the job done? And who's better, Thistlecrack or Unowhatimeanharry?


Newbury 13:50 Friday – Berkshire Novices Chase

There are two ways to look at Yanworth’s recent antics. The fall at Exeter will either be the making of him or the breaking of him – I believe it will be the former. It was a silly fall: they weren’t going that quick and his hind end just overtook his front end. Gravity won that battle, as it usually does.

Willoughby Court is a very good horse, but for my money Yanworth is a fraction better. It’ll be a good race – definitely one to watch. Here, it’s all about open form versus novices form – open form is not always a reliable indicator, and can flatter to deceive, so Yanworth holds the edge.

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Newbury 15:00 Friday – Long Distance Hurdle

I’m surprised that Thistlecrack is the favourite for this one. He hasn’t won since the King George, while¬†Unowhatimeanharry comes to Newbury off the back of a good win at Aintree.

With the long straight at Newbury, it’s a hard place to avoid getting involved in a slog.

At this track, fitness is a major factor. Given that Unowhatimeanharry has a run under his belt, that may tell come the final stretches of the race.

Many Clouds got at Thistlecrack and out-battled him in January in the Cotswold Chase. Thistlecrack is a horse with oodles of pace, and can dominate opponents, but hasn’t faced Unowhatimeanharry. This is a stepping stone to the King George, and obviously there’s something left to work on for Thistlecrack’s team. I think the value is with Unowhatimeanharry.

Newbury 15:00 Saturday – Ladbrokes Trophy

Total Recall, who’s going to get in off 10-8, will get a penalty of 18 pounds. The next time he goes in a handicap, he’ll likely be near the top, and the fact he’s getting a second bite of the cherry with a real racing weight here is exciting for Willie Mullins, who has been bullish in the buildup.

Horses can go up the handicap and win, but that generally tends to apply between the marks of 100 and 140. To improve beyond 140 is difficult. Total Recall will be running off 148 now – even with 10-8 on his back, that’s a very high mark.

He had so much in hand in the Munster National at Limerick in October that he simply cleaned up. But that was a much weaker race than this. He’s up against horses here that are still unexposed, like American, so it’s a different ballgame for Total Recall. Still, 10-8 is a great racing weight, and I’d love to be riding him – but that 18-pound penalty would still be in the back of my head.

Coneygree will make this a different race to the Munster National.

They’ll go at a really strong gallop, and there’ll be no hiding place. I’m a huge fan of Coneygree. I thought his Cheltenham Gold Cup performance in 2015 was amazing, as was his outing at the Punchestown Gold Cup in 2016. He brings a lot to the table, and will make this a huge test for everyone else in the race.

American fits the bill as a second-season chaser. The handicapper hasn’t had a look at him yet, as he’s coming here for the first time, and maybe that will make the difference.

A dry week will help Childrens List. He had a smashing race in his comeback run in Limerick, finishing second over 2m3f. The distance will also help him.

Pleasant Company hasn’t run since the English national, where he didn’t quite get home. He’s working well. We can’t make him any fitter, and he’ll give a really good account of himself.

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What do you think?