The Hennessy Gold Cup tomorrow at Newbury looks an outstanding race with the added interest of the ever popular Denman going for his third win in the race.
Denman does have points in his favour. He has won first time out in each of the last 5 seasons and he has won 5 of his 6 races at Newbury. He won his first Hennessy off a rating of 161 and his second off mark of 174. He is a further 8 lbs higher this time and to win again at the age of 10 is indeed a big ask. While I would not write him off this does look a particularly strong renewal and I would be looking to oppose him at the current odds .
It is quite an all star cast this year. As well as Denman we have another former winner of the race in Madison Dui Berlais. There are former winners of the Irish National, Niche Market, and the Welsh National, Dream Alliance. Big Fella Thanks has finished 6th and 4th in the last two Aintree Nationals and in Neptune Collonges we have a former winner of the Irish Hennessy and a horse placed 3rd and 4th in Gold Cups. Add to that Razor Royale, winner of the Racing Post chase, Silver by Nature, runner up in the Welsh National and winner of the Blue Square Gold Cup plus Ryanair Chase winner Taranis and King George 3rd Barber’s Shop and you have a race that should take some winning.
Neptune Collonge returns after a long absence but off a mark of 164 has been given a chance by the handicapper. He could need the run though . Silver by Nature was one of my early fancies for this but he really needs testing ground and he seems unlikely to get it. Despite the claims of the older horses it might pay to side with the younger brigade and 8 of the last 10 renewals have been won by 6 and 7 year olds. If we adopt this approach we can narrow the field down to just 6 and of those I am going to pick out 4 that appeal to me.
The imposing Pandorama comes over from Ireland and boasts an impressive strike rate. His best run last season was when beating subsequent RSA Chase winner Weapons Amnesty at Leopardstown. Most of his wins have come on soft or heavy ground though. The progressive Weird Al is unbeaten over fences and on his last outing dead heated with Little Josh at Carlisle and that horse went on to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup. On the debit side his chase wins have all come in fields of 6 or less. The enigmatic Diamond Harry likes Newbury; his form figures at the Berkshire track read 11131. While his jumping is not always perfect he has stacks of ability. 6 of his 9 career wins have come in soft or heavy ground. Burton Point has won 5 of his 6 races over fences with his only defeat coming at Cheltenham when second to Weapons Amnesty. I think that the winner is likely to come from these 4 and if pushed to narrow it down I would go with Burton Port and Diamond Harry.
Apart from the Hennessy there is plenty more top class action at Newbury. With Newcastle abandoned the Fighting Fifth Hurdle has been moved the Newbury (12.25). Here the current Champion Hurdler Binocular takes on the rising star Peddler’s Cross. The trip could be too short for Peddler’s Cross and he could just present a target to the finished kick of Binocular but given a strong pace his greater stamina could run the sting out of Binocular. A fascinating race but probably not one to bet on!
My selection in the 1.30 is Stoney’s Treasure from the in form Alan King stable. A dual winner over hurdles he has always looked the type to be even better over fences and he made a promising debut in that sphere when 3rd at Fontwell. Vino Griego has the ability if he can polish up his jumping which has let him down so far this season. He could be worth a small each way interest.
The grey Tocca Ferro won a listed hurdle at Ascot last month and looks the one to beat in the 2.00 where Olofi could be the main danger. In the 2.30 it is impossible to oppose Big Bucks. Prince de Beauchene and The Hollinwell are my 2 against the field in the 3.40.
Today’s picture, of Denman, is courtesy of the artist Lisa Miller.
Bye for now
We had a few winners today, mainly at short odds but I did miss a nice priced winner. Gary Moore does so well in handicap hurdles and his Via Galilei won the first race at the Newbury Hennessy festival at 16/1. In a pre season interview the trainer comments that the horse “could be fairly well treated.” Rated over 100 on the flat Via Galilei is a classy individual and he did this well.
Turning our attention to tomorrow’s Newbury card Coup Royale is my selection in the 1.00. He shaped with plenty of promise when runner up at Kempton on the first of the month and can go one better here.
Mostly Bob looks well handicapped in the 1.35. Although not bred to stay, he is by Indian Ridge, he certainly shapes as though he will get 3 miles and he could be a bit better than his rating of 125.
Spirit River, the 2.10 Coral Cup winner makes his chase bow in the 2.10 in a race where his trainer has a particularly good record. Always viewed as a chaser in the making he can make a winning start to his career over the larger obstacles here.
In the 2.45 Rivaliste may well improve on his 3rd at Cheltenham but I slightly prefer Suntini who is having his first run of the season and goes well fresh.
There are lots of interesting runners in the 3.15. Kid Cassisy and Merehead were first and second in a Newbury bumper in March and look decent prospects over hurdles. Ohio Gold is another with bumper form and has already had a run over hurdles this season finishing a promising 3rd at Chepstow. Somewhatinevitable was second in a bumper at Kempton last season and is another that looks up to winning races over hurdles.
Today’s picture is courtesy of the artist Ruth S Harris.
Sure Josie Sure was fancied for the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and ran well there for a long way. That should bring her on for her run at Newbury tomorrow in the 12.30 where the track should also suit her.
I tipped Alverstone when she won at Cheltenham last month and I am going to stick with her to follow up in the 1.00. Tony McCoy has the ride which is an obvious plus.
The 1.35 brings together a couple of useful types in Finian’s Rainbow and Sang Bleu. Both were smart hurdlers and look the types to do well over fences. With only 3 runners the race could develop into a tactical affair and there is not much point in coming up with a selection. They do look a couple of exciting prospects for fences though and this should be a race worth watching.
Vagrant Emperor has been off the course for a long while but has some useful form including a 2nd to Bensalem at Leicester. He looks on a handy mark if he is fit after his lay off.
In the 3.15 Aiteen Thirtythree and Swincombe Rock could fight out the finish.
My only selection at Uttoxeter is Predictive in the 12.50.
Today’s picture is courtesy of the artist Julie Whitwham.
After a disappointing campaign last season Alan King’s horses are enjoying a better time this term. King sends Sweet Irony up to Wetherby tomorrow for the novice hurdle at 1.20. The 4 year old looks a decent prospect on the basis of his bumper from and his hurdles debut at Wincanton recently where he finished 3rd. He is my only selection for tomorrow.
Just a couple of horses to look out for at Lingfield tomorrow, Recession Proof in the 2.20 and Zafranagar in the 3.20. Both would prefer good ground and the going at Lingfield is predicted to be testing which tempers my enthusiasm somewhat.
Rebecca Curtis does well with her bumper horses and Grovemere, who runs in the Ffos Las 4.05 looks interesting. He is a half brother to Alberta’s Run and has Tony McCoy in the saddle.
Backing horses wearing headgear for the first time will probably put you on the road to penury but I am going to give George Nympton another chance in the Kempton 12.30. I had him down as a horse to follow this season and he surely has more to offer than he has shown so far.
Staying with Kempton Banjaxed Girl can continue the fine form of team Twiston-Davies when running in the 1.30.
Phidippides put in a run full of promise on his chase bow at Exeter behind Rock Noir and should win the Ludlow 2.50, a course where he won over hurdles at this time last season. Another runner to note in this race is Sandynow who I fancy to make his mark over fences this season.
Selections for Sunday
Aintree 12.35 Frankie Figg
1.10 Comhla Ri Coig
2.55 Arctic Court
Towcester 2.05 Woodlands Genpower
Picture courtesy of Sarah Clegg