ASCOT’S Grade Three Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle is always chock full of exciting runners.
Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins – you name it – all the big guns are usually represented by lightly-raced types with the scope to be anything.
But there’s no reason at all why David O’Meara’s Nawton-based Ifandbutwhynot should not be entitled to join them and even beat them.
The Ladbroke, which takes place a week on Saturday, looks as competitive as ever with Tony Martin’s impressive Cheltenham winner Quick Jack the ante-post 8-1 favourite.
And the big yards are responsible for the next clutch in the betting in the shape of the Mullins-trained City Slicker, David Pipe’s Greatwood Hurdle winner Dell’ Arca, the Nicholls-trained Sametegal and Nicky Henderson’s trio Blue Fashion, Chatterbox Rolling Star.
Henderson has won the race three times before with Sentry Duty (2008), Jack The Giant (2007), and Chauvinist (2002).
But next in the list comes Ifandbutwhynot from the comparatively small yard of O’Meara who continues to make giant strides up the training ranks.
O’Meara is not a household name like a Henderson or a Nicholls but there is no denying the impressive nature of the 2013 he has enjoyed over both codes of horse racing.
And now the Yorkshire handler is considering a bid at Ascot’s Ladbroke prize with the evidently improving Ifandbutwhynot.
The seven-year-old has been allotted 10st 13lb in the prestigious handicap hurdle after his victory in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle at Newbury last month.
He has gone up six pounds from his previous rating of 133 to 139 but the horse he beat last time – Henderson’s Chatterbox – was very well fancied.
Yet Ifandbutwhynot seemed to beat the Lambourn runner fair and square and it’s little wonder that O’Meara is considering a crack at this month’s big Ascot prize.
“Ifandbutwhynot has come out of the Gerry Feilden well and is a possible runner in The Ladbroke,” said O’Meara.
“We have contemplated going chasing with him, but obviously he won nicely over hurdles the last day.
He added: “I still need to speak to the owners but there is every possibility that he could go to Ascot.
“He got the run of the race at Newbury but it was a good performance. He quickened up nicely from two out and beat some well-regarded horses. We have always liked him and it was good to see him win a nice race.”
A classy race has a classy horse at the top of its weights with Jeremy Scott’s Elite Hurdle scorer Melodic Rendezvous having been allotted 11st 12lb.
He flopped in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle on his latest start but there will be no horses of the calibre of My Tent Or Yours in a week on Saturday’s line up.
You wouldn’t think so anyway, for all that the big southern yards are represented by a host of potential improvers.
But a quietly fancied Yorkshire raider looks set to join them and there’s no hesitancy at all in predicting a big run from O’Meara’s Ifandbutwhynot.