Surprise winner Beer Goggles & Willoughby Court star on excellent day one of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury

Surprise winner Beer Goggles & Willoughby Court star on excellent day one of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury

The new Ladbrokes Winter Carnival got underway today, Friday, December 1, with a fascinating seven-race card delivering tremendous racing at Newbury Racecourse.

Below is a race-by-race account of the day, which saw a shock 40/1 success for Beer Goggles in the feature £50,000 G2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle.

The going was Soft, Good to Soft in places on the Hurdle Course and Good to Soft, Soft in places on the Chase Course.

The Ladbrokes Winter Carnival concludes tomorrow, Saturday, December 2, when the feature is the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy, the second-richest handicap chase run in Britain.

3.00pm £50,000 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) 3m 52y

 The £50,000 G2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle was billed as a match between the latest two winners of the contest – 2015 scorer Thistlecrack (Colin Tizzard/Tom Scudamore, 11/10 Fav) and last year’s winner Unowhatimeanharry (Harry Fry/Barry Geraghty, 7/4).

However 40/1 chance Beer Goggles (Richard Woollacott/Richard Johnson) threw a spanner in the works by making all the running to score by two and a quarter lengths from Unowhatimeanharry with Taquin Du Seuil (Jonjo O’Neill/Aidan Coleman, 33/1) another three and three quarter lengths back in third of the six runners.

Thistlecrack, making his seasonal debut, raced keenly before weakening two out to come home a disappointing fifth.

Successful trainer Richard Woollacott, who is based at South Molton Devon, said: “I am nearly crying, it’s absolutely fantastic.

“I have got fantastic support from everyone at home working so hard and we are so lucky now that we have got a couple of owners with some slightly better horses. This horse is wonderful – he is not very big, but absolutely fantastic.

“There are so many ups and downs with racing and horses. Everyone is trying to achieve the same thing and have good winners in nice races, but they don’t come around all the time.

“He won off 104 (at Hexham in March, 2016 before joining Woolacott) and I went and brought him thinking that we would have a bit of fun. We didn’t really expect him to keep going (up the ratings) the way he has. He does everything that you want – he is tough and sound – and just a lovely horse.

“I am flabbergasted. This is absolutely amazing. First of all, it was fantastic from Dicky. He said ‘what are the instructions’ and I said ‘do what you like – go and enjoy yourself and see what happens!’

“We knew Beer Goggles would stay and keep going. His jumping is good. But to be honest, we did not think he was the class of that. He has just kept improving.

“Because of his handicap mark (152) and not being very big, we couldn’t keep asking him to run from the top of the handicap. We felt we had to go here.

“Originally, we were going to go for the Long Walk at Ascot (later in December). We will probably miss that now, give him a break and then perhaps go for the Cleeve (at Cheltenham). We will see if he copes with Cheltenham first and if he does, we will go there (for The Festival in March), but if not, we will go to Aintree (in April) where he has run well before.

“I have 15 horses and my wife has 15 pointers. Horses like this and another one at home called Lalor that we like – it is amazing. A day like this is wonderful and you hope it will attract more horses.”

Richard Johnson added: “We joked beforehand that 50/1 was a bit rude about him. He has been in great form and is a real improver. He ran a great race last time off top-weight at Aintree.

“I think, realistically with Thistlecrack and Unowhatimeanharry, you always felt that it would be hard to beat them.

“He has just jumped and travelled. Richard told me to do whatever he was happy doing – I was enjoying myself up there and so was Beer Goggles. We kept it very simple and he stayed and jumped really well.

“Beer Goggles has done everything before. He has made the running or dropped in. Today there was not a lot of pace and Richard said to go out and enjoy yourself.

“I thought he was a little bit over-priced this morning. He probably should have been a 20/1 shot rather than a 40/1 shot. He has jumped nicely and travelled well – I don’t think there is any massive fluke about it.

“I thought Tom Scu would not want to commit too early because it was his first run for a long time and Unowhatimeanharry can be a bit idle in front. I didn’t dare look round because I thought they were running away in behind me.

“I don’t think there is a massive fluke about it. Horses like Colin’s Sister and Unowhatimeanharry had won (already this season) so I can’t see that they have all run badly – Thistlecrack fair enough because he has having his first run of the season after a lay-off. It looked a decent, six-runner field that was competitive and he has got his head in front.

“I have been lucky for Richard Woollacott. I have ridden his two big winners – Aintree last year [Lalor] and this one today. He has only got 15 horses and is doing really, really well. He is an up and coming trainer and, if he has the right horses, he can do the job. The all important thing these days is getting the horses.”

Trainer Harry Fry said of the runner-up: “Barry was very happy with Unowhatimeanharry and we were just beaten by a better horse on the day.

“Unowhatimeanharry has run his race. They have gone a good pace and it looked like we had every chance up the straight. I thought jumping the last we would peg Beer Goggles back, but the winner has pulled out more and was better than us on the day. Fair play to Richard Woollacott and his team.

“We could have finished second today and been delighted to finish second to Thistlecrack. I did not think coming here that if you said we finished second that it would have been to Beer Goggles. Fair play to him.

“We will still go, all being well, to the Long Walk at Ascot. We will let the dust settle and confirm that in a few days.”

Barry Geraghty added: “Unowhatimeanharry had every chance but couldn’t get to the winner either. The winner is a only a six-year-old and could be 10lb better than his mark, which combined with the 6lb penalty, puts him nearly level with us. The winner will be no pushover next time off level weights.”

Trainer Colin Tizzard was not too disheartened with Thistlecrack’s fifth place and commented: “Basically, he looked like the winner two out.

“He looked a bit burly in the parade ring when compared to horses who have already run this season and he ran a bit fresh.

“I think it was right to come here first rather than going straight to the King George. Thistlecrack is a big, heavy horse and he just got tired in the last two furlongs. If all is well tomorrow, he will still go to the King George.

“He needed the run today. He was a bit gassy and doing too much. The others looked race fit whereas he looked like he needed it.”

Tom Scudamore added: “Thistlecrack felt full of beans and has taken me all the way through the race.

“He was very happy to be back on the track and, in himself, felt well. He got tired on me going to the second last but up to that point he felt as good as ever. He has still got a hell of an engine.

“It is tough coming back from what he has had and everything. It was a big ask first time and I think he has acquitted himself well.

“The one thing you are looking for when they have had an injury like his is that they are still able to use themselves and do everything like before. Going to two out, he felt as well as he has ever been. Normally, after two out, off he goes 20 lengths clear in his own little world but today he got tired. We have got a bit to work on between now and Boxing Day, all being well.”

Beer Goggles (Richard Johnson) on his way to victory in the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle

1.50pm £40,000 Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) 2m 3f 187y

The G2 Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase over just short of two and a half miles was billed as a match between Yanworth (Alan King/Barry Geraghty, 5/6 Fav) and Willoughby Court (Ben Pauling/Nico de Boinville, 15/8), both G1-winning hurdlers. It was the latter who came out on top, taking the lead at the halfway point and staying on well to score by three lengths in the top-quality five-runner race.

Winning trainer Ben Pauling said: “That was really good. Willoughby Court was clever when he needed to be and brave at a couple. He wasn’t worried like he was at Huntingdon and that was so good to see, so I am thrilled.

“We knew that this distance is still as short as he wants around a flat track. It was a great ride and he was exceptional.

“We will probably stay at two and a half miles and maybe look towards the Dipper (January 1) at Cheltenham. It won’t hurt him to go there. It’s fabulous for Paul and Clare (Rooney, owners) and everyone involved.

“There was not as much pressure today. Yanworth has run a fantastic race in behind and I am sure they have got things they will work on, but we are obviously very happy with our lad. He jumped brilliantly – he was brave when had to be but also clever when he needed to be.

“Nico just said there that he could have sat a bit longer and that he has more gears than we give him credit for. He made into a bit of a slog but I was very happy with that.

“He will always improve fitness-wise [from first run] because he does things so easily at home, but his jumping today was a different gear. I know he went a bit long and low at one but even that would be cribbing him unfairly. He barely put a foot wrong. It is great to see because I always thought he was a chaser and now he is proving me right.

“I think he could be very good now. Only time will tell, but it is the fact he is so much easier to train this year. He was so fractious as a young horse and was almost living on his nerves the whole time, whereas now he is an easy horse to train and is able to put the effort in when it is needed.

“When Nico said he has more gears than we thought he had, I said ‘Arkle?’ But he said ‘no, no, we will stay at JLT.’ I am sure Willoughby Court will stay three miles in time but this season will be two and a half. I would imagine the Dipper at Cheltenham will be our next target.”

Nico de Boinville, enjoying a 12/1 double after the earlier success of Santini, added: “He was as straight as anything and slightly edged off to the right. He was just novicey at Huntingdon – draw a line through that – and he has been schooling well at home. I didn’t come here thinking that there were going to be any problems, but that’s the public perception.

“Willoughby Court is very good and he showed me a few gears there as well. I was umm-ing and aah-ing about whether he was a three-miler but I think you would have to stick it is as an aah because he showed a few gears. He is a nice horse and will definitely come on for the run again.

“It is not that I got to the front too soon but perhaps I asked him for a bit much too soon. I probably went through the gears a bit too early on. He has got slightly tired in the last half furlong but I am sure if a horse came to him, he would have gone again.

“He is a lovely horse and has put Huntingdon behind him. He has come here and hasn’t missed a beat jumping. So many good horses have won this race in the past and I am sure he can go on to bigger and better things.

“I think we will stick to two and a half for now. He probably hasn’t quite got the pace of the Altiors and things like that. I can envisage him going up to three miles eventually.”

Yanworth made a mistake at the fourth last and looked to be out of contention before staying on again after the last.

His trainer Alan King said: “He made a couple of mistakes, which you can’t afford to do against a horse like the winner. However, he got round and was very competitive.

“He will have learned plenty again today and that was only his third run over fences. What happened at Exeter last time wasn’t ideal, but today’s run will bring him on again. Newbury has probably the biggest fences in the country and is a good test.

“We will look at something over the Christmas/New Year period for him next. He has a few nasty over-reaches. Hopefully, he will not need any stitches but it might hold me up for a week or 10 days or so.”

Yanworth’s jockey Barry Geraghty said: “Yanworth on the whole jumped well apart from two and I would say they took their toll.

“You have to give credit to the winner because jumping the last I thought we had a good chance of getting him. I would say he was only waiting for help. He is a very good horse. Yanworth ran a good race and will have learnt from that.”

Willoughby Court (Nico de Boinville) takes the Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase

 2.25pm £50,000 Ladbrokes Open Handicap Chase 2m 3f 187y

 Oldgrangewood (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton, 11st 7lb, 6/1) came with a superbly-timed run to take the day’s joint-richest race, the £50,000 Ladbrokes Open Handicap Chase over two and a half miles.

The six-year-old delivered his challenge between the last two fences and stayed on well to get the better of Jameson (Nigel Twiston-Davies/James Bargary (3), 10st 10lb, 8/1) inside the last half-furlong, scoring by half-a-length. There was another length and a quarter back to top-weight O O Seven (Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville, 11st 12lb, 6/1) in third.

Dan Skelton commented: “If you watch going to two out, Oldgrangewood hangs outwards. There are still signs of immaturity, but we have hoped he can get up there and get going into this type of grade. He is now showing he belongs here after a good run in the Old Roan.

“I think these types of tracks are quite important to him – these wide open tracks. Maybe next year you could see him starting around Wetherby and up in trip. You see Harry at a couple down the back has had to organise him and I think if you went around a tighter track, you could end up getting in a bit of hassle with the horse.

“He is progressive and that is the nice thing. Obviously, I have got to talk to Chris [Giles] and his mother Sandra who own him, but really long term I would imagine maybe Aintree [could be a target] given he ran well there last time. He is in the December Gold Cup (at Cheltenham later this month) but that may come too soon. He has earned a step up in grade.”

Harry Skelton said: “It was a nice race, I have gone a nice even gallop and he did well to stand up two fences out, when he ran into the bottom of it. He is a progressive horse and, if you look at his first run back at Chepstow when Misterton won, he had Elgin behind him so it was a really good run over hurdles.

“He ran really well in the Old Roan Chase and has come back today. He is quite a progressive horse and is going the right way. We will keep our options open – we have kept him on flat tracks and he has taken a bit of time to come to hand at home.

“It’s nice to come racing today and get a nice winner at these big meetings. The horses have been flying and it’s just nice for everyone to have a big winner.

“Oldgrangewood was good. He is a horse we have taken our time with a little bit – he was a bit immature – but he is really getting the hang of things now.

“These sort of tracks – big, galloping tracks – suit him well because it gives me time to help him. He lugs on one rein a bit and prefers to go left-handed. That was a nice performance today.

“He is a little bit green and still a bit immature. The ability is there but it is about putting the pieces of the puzzle in the right place.

“He will definitely get further in time. I think once you go three miles, it is very hard to turn round and come back to two and a half. We will have to think about that a little but definitely next year we could be coming back here for the big race tomorrow.

“Dan has done a brilliant job placing him and the owner Chris Giles has given the time that the horse he needs.”


Rest of the card

12.20pm £10,000 Ladbrokes ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle 2m 69y

 Favourite backers got off to a flyer when 9/4 market leader Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard/Robbie Power) took the opening Ladbrokes ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle.

The five-year-old son of Flemensfirth led throughout and after facing a challenge from the eventual third Simply The Betts (Harry Whittington/Harry Bannister, 4/1) stayed on well to see off the late challenge of Admiral Barratry (Nick Williams/Lizzie Kelly (3), 16/1) by three and a half lengths.

Winning trainer Colin Tizzard said: “This was Robbie’s only ride today and he said just then that he did not want to get off Lostintranslation after his first two runs.

“He put the race to bed a long way out, didn’t he? Only two or three came off the bend and had a little go, but this a lovely young horse. He was looking about going to the last, but once Robbie pushed him out, he was away again.

“They [Lostintranslation and Slate House] would do about the same sort of work. We thought Lostintranslation was quite nice after his first run and he was always going to improve. He has improved today from the last day and there is nothing wrong with letting them improve on the racetrack. We don’t need to know at home because it is on the racecourse that they are judged. He is a lovely horse for next year.

“We will aim for the roof for sure. It all depends on what his handicap mark is like after that. I don’t think it is going to change very much from 125. He has beat novices today.

“Robbie just put it in the equation not to run him on bottomless ground because he has too good of an action. He has had three runs and we need him for the three festivals – Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown – later on, so I don’t know where he will go.

“He ran into a good one of Nicky Henderson’s previously and was more professional today. I don’t see any reason to go over further than two miles with him at the moment and it’s great to have so many good young hurdlers in the yard.”

Robbie Power added: “The first day I rode Lostintranslation in Chepstow, I absolutely loved him. I thought he was very unlucky to be beaten in Chepstow. He made a very bad mistake three out and it was the way he came back on the bridle after making the mistake that really impressed me.

“He met a very good horse here the last day in Claimantakinforgan. Lostintranslation has improved from every run and I think he is a very, very nice horse who could end up in a nice race in the spring of the year on nice ground. Whatever he does the year will be a bonus because he will make a lovely chaser.

“He had to do it the hard way today. He jumped out and made the running, which he had never done before, and he was having a good look around. Even down to the last, his ears were pricked and he wasn’t going forward, but when I landed over the last and gave him a belt, he has quickened away to the line.

“I thought the last day on better ground he was even better again. I just think he met a very good horse in Claimantakinforgan. That ground out there today is very, very dead, and I do think he will be better on good ground because he has a lovely action.

“The ground is lifeless the whole way round and when you turn out of the back straight, there is a strong headwind. It is not heavy ground by any means, but is lifeless and will take plenty of getting.”

 12.50pm£20,000 Ladbrokes Chase (Novices’ Limited Handicap) (for the Fulke Walwyn Trophy) 2m 92y

 Bigmartre (Harry Whittington/Harry Bannister, 11st 6lb, 4/1) recorded his second success over fences in the Ladbrokes’ Chase, a limited handicap for novices over an extended two miles.

The six-year-old was always prominent and went into a clear lead after the eighth fence. He was possibly helped by the fall of Dusky Legend (Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson, 4/1), who was travelling well when coming down two out, while 5/2 favourite Hell’s Kitchen got no further than the fourth fence, when he unseated Barry Geraghty.

Bigmartre came home four and a half lengths clear of Cyrname (Paul Nicholls/Sean Bowen, 11/4).

Whittington said: “I am thrilled with that. Bigmartre is proving to me that he can do it. He has been a funny horse because when he first arrived with us he was a mad thing. He ran in France five times with a hood, ear pieces and god knows what, and when he turned up he spent more time in the hedge than actually on the gallop! He was so free-going.

“In his first season novice hurdling, he got relaxed and on the round gallop at home he started to settle and enjoy himself. He has got better and better and better, and he loves jumping fences which I suppose is making a man of him. He has surprised me today.

“He has got a lot of natural ability and a high cruising speed. He could perhaps be a graded horse now he is so relaxed. He was good novice hurdler but was always on it a bit too much. He is more professional now and could just keep going the right way.

“What impressed the most today was how economical he was. At Ludlow, he was really good for a first time novice chaser but he was a little bit exuberant. Today he was really economical, low and almost half hurdling them.

“He will only have four runs this season because you have to get him really, really fresh. He will go out in the field now for two weeks. We did the same after Ludlow – we literally chucked him a field for two weeks and forgot about him – and I will speak to Phil [Dixon, owner] but the Kingmaker is something we have had in mind if he came through today.

“Then who knows after that. I know Phil will want it to be Cheltenham, but the two and a half mile race at Aintree that Arzal won will suit him down to the ground. I think he will improve for going up in trip as well, now he relaxes.”

Harry Bannister added:  “We rode Bigmartre a little bit differently today. We let Sean [Bowen] go off in front and I think having a lead helped him to concentrate that bit better.

“Once he got to the front down the back, he settled away and that allowed him to get a breather. He will want further in the end, but he is very quick away from his obstacles.

“Hell’s Kitchen did not help me much, but to be fair to my lad he is a very good jumper and got me out of trouble. He will be one of the more straightforward ones we have got. He doesn’t school a lot and does it a week before he runs just to get his eye in again. Joe Simpson rides him out and does a good job on him.

“Bigmartre is everything you want for a chaser around here. He jumps, travels and he tries. When I gave him a squeeze four out, he picked up and being so quick over his fences, it enables him to catch them out if they have not been as good as him over them.

“I am very lucky to be able to ride a horse like him. I would say the bigger fences today helped him because his jumping is such an asset.”

1.20pm £10,000 Ladbrokes Novices’ Hurdle 2m 4f 118y

 Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson enjoyed a 1-2 in the extended two and a half-mile Ladbrokes Novices’ Hurdle with Santini (Nico de Boinville, 7/2) winning by four and a half lengths from Chef Des Obeaux (Noel Fehily, 2/1 favourite).

The winner was homebred by owners Richard and Lizzie Kelvin Hughes and was making his debut under Rules, having won his only point-to-point at Didmarton in March. The four-year-old took up the running between the last two flights and stayed on strongly.

Henderson said: “I have watched Santini from when he was foal to when he came into training. He was very big and weak last year and instead of going down the bumper road, which we would normally have done and given him a run or two in the spring, we sent him down the Polly Gundry in the West Country.

“He hunted and ran in a point-to-point, which he won, and it was just a much a nicer road for him into where we are now. This is where his grown up life begins but, to be honest, it doesn’t really [begin] until next year.

“That was terrific today. He jumps and he gallops, and he shows you nothing at home. We will mind him a bit and when he gets a fence, it will be fun. He is something in the making.

“The other horse finished second and they both have futures. Chef Des Obeaux is a lovely character. The pair of them would work together as neither of them show you anything at home. But that is grand because as long as it happens in afternoon, I don’t mind what they do in the morning.”

Nico de Boinville added: “Santini is a really nice horse. It was great to see him keep galloping all the way to the line. The form of his point-to-point is working out quite well and we came here hopeful.

“I knew we had a couple of speed horses in behind us, so I thought we would get there early enough and see if he would stay out to the line.

“Santini is big, greenish horse and very raw, so we will see how we go. He is what he is and it is all before us. I can’t say what he is yet but there is definitely a bit of talent there.”

3.35pm £35,000 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle 3m 52y

There was a local success in the concluding Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle when six-year-old mare The Organist (Oliver Sherwood/Barry Geraghty, 11st 3lb, 12/1) stayed on well to score by a length and a half from Forza Milan (Jonjo O’Neill/Killian Moore (3), 11st 1lb, 11/2) with long-time leader Hello George (Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson, 9/2 Jt Fav) another two and a half lengths back in third.

Winning trainer Oliver Sherwood said: Oliver Sherwood: “It was a very good ride from Barry, a very patient ride. I am delighted for the horse – she has had no luck. Things haven’t gone right for her and the ground went against her at Wincanton. It rained very hard at Wincanton and she does not want extremes of going.

“It’s my first winner for J P (McManus -owner), so that’s a real honour. I am chuffed to bits for the horse and, more importantly, my wife because she rides her out every day. The Organist was previously owned by the Million In Mind partnership and when she went to the sales J P bought her and sent her back to me – he is a very loyal man.

“I think she lost a bit of confidence with the jumping of fences. I wouldn’t say she didn’t jump them badly but she just struggled as she is not the scopiest mare in the world. She is probably not what I hoped she would be but she is still not a bad mare. We are back on song, anyway.

“I am not sure where she will go next. There is a mares’ race at Cheltenham to look at and we could also look at getting her qualified for the Pertemps Final. J P likes his Cheltenham runners and we will work backwards from there. Three miles or two and a half miles on a stiff track is fine for her.”

Barry Geraghty added: “The Organist did it well. We were going plenty quick enough and she was probably a bit outpaced at stages. She picked up nicely and it was a good performance.”