Saturday brings one of my favourite racing days of the year, the Hennessy Gold Cup. Soaked in history with only the very best of the warm blooded racing thoroughbred taking pride of place in the winner’s enclosure.
The tank Denman still remains fresh in my relatively young mind, the beast done a demolition job on a classy field, not once but twice. He is just one example of the class of racehorse it does take to win this prestigious handicap.
Back to the present day and there has been a couple of wise old men comparing last season’s star novice Coneygree to the great horse himself, Denman. You can’t really argue with the statement, he’s as tough as an old battle-axe and has a over sized engine under his bonnet. It’s a huge shame he misses the race as I really did believe he would of took the world of beating whatever weight he carried.
Let’s forget now what could of been and look at the rock solid facts of the declarations. Start off with the likely favourite.
Saphir Du Rheu will try to emulate previous greats who have shouldered the ultimate burden of 11st 12lbs when he lines up in Saturday’s big one. With his main rival Coneygree out, the race is now wide open and he is the class angle now. Paul Nicholls holds him in the highest of regard and knows what it takes to win these elite races. He could well be the one to beat now, am not overly convinced in him lumping round that sort of weight on this testing ground though. Especially as he is not the biggest of horses compared to the unit of Coneygree. Bobs Worth is on a very tempting mark if he is in the same heart as he was a fortnight ago when rolling back the years and maintaining his unbeaten hurdle record at Aintree. The four chase runs before that though sap away my confidence back in this big field against tough handicappers. I would love to see him enjoy himself and run his race though and am sure the idea of the World Hurdle is not a million miles away from Mr Hendersons mind, especially if things don’t go to plan on Saturday.
A very interesting runner for me in this off a potentially lenient racing weight is the improving If In Doubt, this horse has a big engine, marry that with his tenacious attitude and we’ve got a great racehorse, in theory. But Philip Hobb’s 7yo comes with a warning label attached, his jumping. This is the worry from last term and he must improve on it. Having said that he was only a novice and still managed to pull apart a competitive Skybet Chase at Doncaster, despite walking through three or four of the obstacles. He was out of his depth because of his jumping in the RSA at the festival but was still only beaten just over eight lengths by Don Poli, running on strongly from two out. I think the Hobb’s team will have him primed for Saturday and barring accidents I like his chances at double figure odds. Smad Place is consistent with conditions to suit and will be there in the firing line three from home, I just think a few will improve beyond him. The Druids Nephew is interesting on the back of last years solid season and can run into a place, also his stable mate and Mr Waley Cohen’s new interest The Young Master is not completely out of it in one of the most open Hennessy Gold Cups in recent years. Other runners include Urano who could be overpriced if the jumping holds together and same could be said about Fingal Bay under this season’s go to man Richard Johnson. Completing the big race field include the likeables Ned Stark, Fox Appeal, and First Lieutenant along with the quirky yet talented bunch of The Giant Bolster, Theatre Guide, Benbens and Al Co. One of my favourites from last season Splash Of Ginge whips them in. I would love to see him get back on track for the “Ginge Army” more than anyone but unfortunately I think we have seen the best of him. I might be wrong though, probably not!
- IF IN DOUBT
- THE DRUIDS NEPHEW
- SAPHIR DU RHEU