On Tuesday, the Berkshire circuit staged its Ladbrokes Winter Carnival gallops morning, giving a number of contenders for the prestigious £250,000 handicap – formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup – a chance to strut their stuff in front of the media ahead of the big race on Saturday week.
Thomas Patrick, who won over the Ladbrokes Trophy course and distance in March and rounded off his campaign by scoring at Aintree, further enhanced his reputation when narrowly beaten by the Colin Tizzard-trained Elegant Escape on his seasonal reappearance at Sandown earlier this month.
Elegant Escape is the 6-1 favourite for the big race, with Thomas Patrick an 8-1 shot to reverse the form.
And the latter delighted his trainer when stepping out on the course with a stablemate.
Thomas Patrick (white cap) completes his final preparations ahead of the @Ladbrokes Trophy @NewburyRacing next weekend. 🐎— Racing UK (@racing_uk) November 20, 2018
Will he go one better than he did on his seasonal debut at Sandown? pic.twitter.com/sF6lPaG6Nz
“We were very pleased with him this morning,” said Lacey.
“In an ideal world we could do with some more rain. If it was good to soft we’d probably let him take his chance, but he does prefer soft ground.”
“I think his run at Sandown was probably a career-best. He gave his all and was always going to come on for that run.
“He’s had a good summer and has come back a lot stronger. He’s definitely taken a step forward.
“He was progressive throughout last season and he’s continuing to progress, I think.”
Anthony Honeyball believes Ms Parfois ticks plenty of boxes.
She was another to engage in some work, alongside stablemate Regal Encore, who was third in last year’s renewal.
Honeyball said: “She’s a very good mare and she’s just got better and better.
“We always thought she’d make a better chaser than hurdler. She was very consistent last season – she just kept turning up and running the same races.
“It would have been nice to have got her head in front in one of her last two races, but it was very good to be involved and have a horse good enough to get in the mix.
“Regal Encore finished third off 150 and was pulling clear of the rest all the way up the run-in. It’s going to be tough for him as you can’t really argue he’s getting better and he’s running off a higher mark this year.
“But if the ground is anywhere near soft, Ms Parfois must have a very good chance. She’s won around here and the trip, the running style and the race will suit her perfectly.”
Paul Nicholls won successive renewals of the race as a jockey aboard Broadheath (1986) and Playschool and has saddled three winners as trainer, with Strong Flow scoring in 2003 and the mighty Denman winning twice in 2007 and 2009.
His big hope for this year’s race is the admirable Black Corton, who finished second to Definitly Red in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance.
Nicholls said: “He’s in good shape and I think he was a bit unlucky in the Charlie Hall. He ran very well that day, it was a great prep race and he’s definitely in with a chance at a big price.
“He’s come on for that run and I’m keen to bring him here. This track suits Black Corton, as he showed last season.
“He’s in really good shape and has as good a chance as any.”
Nicky Henderson could fire a twin assault, with Beware The Bear and Terrefort both in the mix.
Terrefort was ante-post favourite before disappointing behind Elegant Escape and Thomas Patrick at Sandown.
Henderson said: “Beware The Bear won first time back last season and is good fresh. I’m keen to come here for the Ladbrokes Trophy, but if the ground isn’t suitable he has the alternative of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.
“We found that Terrefort had pulled some muscles at Sandown and I’ll do something with him this week.
“I hope we can get him here.”
Having seen Be My Royal disqualified in 2002, Willie Mullins belatedly won the race for the first time with Total Recall 12 months ago.
He could be back to defend his crown, but Ireland’s champion trainer has nominated last week’s Clonmel Oil Chase victor as Kemboy as his chief hope this time around.
Mullins said: “Kemboy looks the main one for me. We’ve picked up a 4lb penalty for winning in Clonmel, but there’s every reason to go to Newbury as he’s grand and in great form at home.
“He was entitled to win the other day, but I didn’t think he was quite fit enough and I admit he surprised me.
“There are three other possibles in Total Recall, Rathvinden and Pairofbrowneyes. The ground will be too quick for the others.”
Discussing ground conditions and assessing the forecast, Newbury’s clerk of the course Richard Osgood said: “This season, I’ve had to use more water than in the last four years put together as it’s been particularly dry.
“I walked it this morning and would call the ground good, good to soft in places.
“Between now and next week the forecast is for showers, but the weather is actually quite unpredictable.
“We’ve got a frost coming on Thursday and I’m mindful that any further watering can only be done in certain areas.”