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Anthony Honeyball believes Ms Parfois has everything in her favour as she bids for glory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday. The popular mare enjoyed a fine novice campaign over fences last season, winning three times – including at this track – before finishing second in the Reynoldstown at Ascot, the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

Honeyball has been targeting this prize for some time and with a surprisingly small field of just 13 runners due to go to post – the well-fancied Irish raider Kemboy withdrawn after the final declaration stage – confidence is high that Ms Parfois can enjoy her day in the sun.

“We’re very much look forward to it,” said Honeyball. “It’s a strange situation with only 13 runners, but I don’t want to say too much because we’ve not got there ourselves yet. She seems in great form. She had her last school indoors on Thursday morning and is ready to go.

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“The handicapper had her running to the same mark (146) from Warwick through to Aintree last season. We obviously hope there’s improvement there. She’s won around the track, the trip is perfect and the race is made for her. Hopefully she has a fantastic chance.”

Following Kemboy’s defection, Ms Parfois is one of three horses disputing favouritism along with Colin Tizzard’s Elegant Escape and the Tom Lacey-trained Thomas Patrick.

Tizzard saddled subsequent Gold Cup hero Native River to claim the race formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup two years ago, and Elegant Escape appears to hold major claims – despite having to carry a 4lb penalty for winning on his return at Sandown three weeks ago.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “Elegant Escape did very well at Sandown. He’s got the 4lb penalty, but we were desperate to get the run in and he’s come on a ton for it. He is a horse we hold in high regard and he has grown into his frame really well. He is a second-season chaser and has a similar profile to Native River when he won the race in 2016. He schooled lovely earlier in the week and goes into the race in real good form.”

Thomas Patrick was just half a length behind Elegant Escape at Sandown and is 5lb better off at the weights for the rematch this weekend.

“He’s definitely stepped forward from that run at Sandown, and the rain has come in time. It should make it beautiful ground for us,” said Lacey. “He enjoyed a great season last season and had a good summer. Richard Johnson felt at Sandown that he was a lot sharper than he was last year. He has had plenty of racing and he has definitely taken a step forward. His run at Sandown last time was probably a career best. He jumped really well, and there is plenty more to come from him. We’re excited and obviously hopeful.”

Paul Nicholls won successive renewals as a jockey aboard Broadheath (1986) and Playschool (1987) and has saddled three winners as a trainer, with Strong Flow scoring in 2003 and the mighty Denman winning in 2007 and 2009. This year he relies on Black Corton, who carries top-weight of 11st 12lb after finishing second in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Nicholls said: “Black Corton has come out his second in the Charlie Hall Chase very well – everything is right for him in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He is a massive price, while Colin’s horse (Tizzard, Elegant Escape) is favourite, and there was about half a length between them in a novice chase here last year at similar weights. I think we’ve got a nice chance and we are looking forward to running him. “

Alan King’s Dingo Dollar has been well supported in recent days following a pleasing seasonal return over hurdles at the track. King said: “It was a good run at Newbury. We just wanted to get a spin into him, and thank God we did. I learnt a few years ago with Smad Place when I tried to go there without a run. I learnt my lesson that day, and it is important to get a bit of fitness into them. I’m not saying he is going to win a race like this, but he is entitled to be in it, so we will see what happens.”

Neil Mulholland’s The Young Master has been in resurgent form this season, winning at Chepstow and Cheltenham. The nine-year-old is at the foot of the weights on 10st 8lb, less jockey Sam Waley-Cohen’s 3lb claim.

Mulholland said: “The Young Master has come out of Cheltenham really well. The Ladbrokes Trophy is a competitive race, but he has started the season well and obviously has a nice weight. He has been rated higher in the past, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back up to that level. Hopefully, he can keep climbing back up the ladder.”

Man On The Spot verdict:

The smallest field for this in 14 years, reduced further by the defection of Kemboy. Elegant Escape wore down THOMAS PATRICK when the pair clashed at Sandown last month but Tom Lacey’s bold-jumping front-runner is 5lb better off now for half-a-length and, already a course and distance winner, can turn the tables and give Richard Johnson a second win in this Grade 3 handicap in three years. As well as Elegant Escape, Colin Tizzard also runs Sizing Tennessee and West Approach but both have a bit to find in this company. Ms Parfois is very tough but lacks a run this term, as does American. Dingo Dollar had a pipe-opener over hurdles last month, however, and still has scope over the larger obstacles. The Young Master has rediscovered some form this season but only one nine-year-old has won this since 2000. Bryony Frost resembled a rodeo act when keeping her partnership with Black Corton intact at Wetherby and the top weight usually runs his race, though looks a few pounds too high. Stamina might be an issue with the Twiston-Davies pair Flying Angel and Go Conquer but Beware The Bear won the Rehearsal Chase on his reappearance last season and could go well if wind surgery has had the desired effect. Allysson Monterg also goes well fresh.

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