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
Dual Champion Chase winner Master Minded has his first run of the season at Ascot tomorrow where he will face Albertta’s Run who won both the Ryanair and the Melling Chases last season. Master Minded has had a wind operation since last season which may bring him back to his best form but there is always the possibility that his below par efforts last season were simply an indication that he is not as good as he was. With the ground drying out the going should suit Alberta’s Run and I will make him my selection.
Another with the ground in his favour is Noble Alan in the 3.10. He comes here on the back of a win at Kelso a fortnight ago and could upset some of the more fancied runners.
Dunraven Storm ran well behind the impressive Cue Card at Cheltenham last week and can gain compensation in the Haydock 12.40.
Tara Royal has had a few problems with his jumping this season but I would be inclined to stick with him, particularly as his stable are in excellent form. If he can put in a decent round of jumping he will be hard to beat in the 1.15.
Palypso de Creek rean well in the Grand National last season until falling 4 out. Richard Johnson rides his for the first time in the Haydock 2.20.
There are plenty with chances in the 2.50. Grand Crus won well last week at Cheltenham and looks to have something in hand over the handicapper. James de Vassy is another to consider. He was 4th in the Greatwood and 3rd in the Coral Cup last season. Peveril, a winner 3 times over hurdles last season is the other one I like and I would be surprised if the winner does not come from these 3.
Imperial Commander should win the 3.25. He is miles ahead on ratings and has an exemplary record when fresh. If you are looking for a chink in his armour he has won 6 of his 10 races at Cheltenham but is only 1 from 7 at other tracks. He should win but if he fails to fire What a Friend could be the one to benefit.
Paquet Cadeau has an each way chance at Huntingdon in the 2.45 while on the all weather you could have a look at Hitchens in the 3.40 at Lingfield and Mastership in the 8.15 at Wolverhampton.
My thanks to Kate Tann for the photo of Imperial Commander.
There are a number of interesting types in the Ascot novice hurdle at 1.00. Frascati Park has the most experience but is yet to win over hurdles despite being placed in good company a number of times. These efforts were on soft or heavy ground however and his wins in bumpers suggest that he will be suited by the better ground he will encounter tomorrow. His 3 main rivals are making their hurdles debuts and all have form in bumpers. Sprinter Sacre won at Ascot and went on to defy a penalty at Ayr in the Scottish Grand National meeting. His future lies over fences but he could be good enough to win over hurdles in the meantime .Poungach won a bumper at Stratford in May and is described as “a lovely type” by his trainer Paul Nicholls. Lastly Easter Meteor represents in form trainer Emma Lavelle. He ran a bit green when 3rd in a Newbury bumper on his only start last season and is a full brother to today’s winner Easter Legend. Another to consider is the Rebecca Curtis trained Made in Time, ridden by AP McCoy. Another with winning bumper form he has already won over hurdles this season but does carry a penalty for that. This should be an interesting and informative race and if pushed for a tip I would go for Sprinter Sacre.
Nicky Henderson could also take the 1.35 with Master of the Hall. Twice a winner over hurdles at Newbury and Sandown he should make a chaser and is preferred to Cheltenham festival winner Pause and Clause who will probably come good in time but has had a few problems with his jumping.
Megastar won twice in bumpers last season including the Aintree Champion bumper where eh beat Dare Me who has already won twice over hurdles this season. Megastar will be hard to beat in the 2.10.
Recent Exeter winner Quinz looks well handicapped in the 3.20 as does Aegean Dawn in the 3.55. Mille Chief looks the main danger in the latter race.
At Exeter I am going for a big outsider in the 12.45 where Jayjay Valentine, a winning pointer could go well at a price.
There are two that I like in the 1.15. The usually reliable Ernst Blofeld rather blotted his copybook when refusing at Haydock over fences earlier this month. He is better than that and is respected here back over hurdles. Synchronised won the Midlands Grand National last season. This may be a warm up race for a chase campaign but he is interesting nonetheless.
Today’s picture is courtesy of the artist Margaret Barrett.
At Hereford tomorrow Evella and Fleur de Vassy are a couple of winning hurdlers that look to have the scope to win over fences. They run in the 3.00.
I am working on the basis that Tiptoeaway needed the run when disappointing at Carlisle and hopefully he will do better in the Market Rasen 12.40.
My only selection at Thurles is Sizing Mexico in the 2.45.
Today’s picture is courtesy of Ruth S Harris