Jonjo O’Neill hopes Cloth Cap can realise his late owner Trevor Hemmings’ plan and secure back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury next month.
The nine-year-old crept into the field off bottom weight of 10st last year, and powered home by 10 lengths in the hands of Tom Scudamore.
Cloth Cap went on to win a listed race at Kelso before being pulled up when sent off favourite for the Grand National at Aintree in April.
The Beneficial gelding satisfied O’Neill on his seasonal bow when finishing fourth at Cheltenham last Saturday, and the Cotswolds trainer believes the outing should have primed his stable star for another crack at the famous Grade 3 handicap on November 27th.
He said: “If I run anything in the Ladbrokes Trophy, I always try and get them a run first. It’s a pretty hard race early in the season, and in my opinion they need a nice rest after that. Lots of good horses have won it.
“I don’t think we will have 10st this year unfortunately, but it’s a good race to win. It’s great prize money. It’s probably ‘the’ long-distance race of the early part of the season. We would love to pull it off again. It would be great for the Hemmings family. It is the aim, so we will try.”
Cloth Cap is one of 42 entries for the race – and with a handicap mark of 154, some 18lb higher than last year, O’Neill is well aware he will be nowhere near bottom weight this time.
He said: “He was a very well handicapped horse last year, and the big problem then was we were worried that he wasn’t going to get into the race. He scraped in at the bottom. He did everything well on the day, and Tom got on great with him, so it all worked out really well.
“Obviously he is not as well handicapped this year, but he ran a nice race at Cheltenham. We were very pleased with him and hopefully we can keep him like that, and he will be able to handle the weight.
Cloth Cap was a third Ladbrokes Trophy winner for Hemmings, following Trabolgan in 2005 and Many Clouds in 2015. After his death earlier this month at the age of 86, his loss is keenly felt by O’Neill.
He added: “Trevor was very important. People like him are the backbone of jump racing. They love it, they are passionate about it. It’s a shame to be losing him.
“He loved the Ladbrokes Trophy. He nearly always tried to have a runner in it. Long-distance chases were his passion.
“This was the plan when the horse came back, to go down the same route as last season.”
The Venetia Williams-trained Cloudy Glen may also carry the famous Hemmings silks next month, with his trainer also having the Susannah Ricci-owned Royal Pagaille in the mix.
Ireland’s champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has entered recent Munster National winner Ontheropes as well as Annamix and Brahma Bull, while Henry de Bromhead has nominated Chris’s Dream and Eklat De Rire.
Lostintranslation is one of six for Colin Tizzard – along with Copperhead, Fiddlerontheroof, Mister Malarky, Slate House and The Big Breakaway.
The first three from a contentious finish to the Bet365 Gold Cup – Potterman, Kitty’s Light and Enrilo – are all entered, with the latter possibly seeking to avenge that Sandown result, when he was demoted from first to third.