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Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

One of the finest races of the National Hunt season takes place tomorrow, and it's not at Cheltenham or Aintree. I love the Hennessy because it's a handicap, and a top class one at that. Where chasing stars give weight to lesser rivals and prove their merit. None of this namby-pamby always running at level weights when classes above all their rivals, champions like (two-time winner) Denman saying 'You know what? I'll give you weight and I will still beat you!'. That to me proves a champion, taking on all challengers on different terms, none of this soft 'only on my patch, only at level weights, only if I feel like it' stuff that, for me, is the reason why Frankel can never be rated the best Flat horse of all-time. Outstanding horse but flat-track bully. Connections with less imagination than a council administrator of the 50s. The Flat season has plenty of decent handicaps but not the really top-class one capable of drawing serious Group horses. Too much of this stud value protection bullshit. Rant over, back to the race.

19 runners, 26lb spread in the weights and 4/1 the field. Bring it on! To preview the great race, welcome back Adam Ward, @AdamHWard.

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2012 Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

This Grade 3 handicap chase is one of the greatest races of the National Hunt season and this year’s renewal looks no different.

TIDAL BAY - Although carrying top-weight won’t be easy, it has been done three times in the last ten years. The mighty Denman did it twice as well as Trabolgan in 2005. He seems to have found a new lease of life since switching to Paul Nicholls with an easy win in the mud in the bet365 Gold Cup at the end of last season(top weight of 11-12) as well as winning first time out over hurdles at Wetherby in early November. He obviously still has a lot of talent and stays all day, with the added bonus of Ruby Walsh doing the steering. With this looking to be a true test with the soft conditions, he is hard to rule out.

ROBERTO GOLDBACK - Won very easily on his last start at Ascot, when having his first start for the Henderson yard. Although he looked impressive that day, he didn’t beat a lot and is clearly the stable’s second-string.

BOB’S WORTH - The RSA Chase winner, has been lined up for this and looks on paper to be the clear form choice. The only worry is the ground as he has done all is winning on no worse than good to soft. He will battle all the way to the line, and I would have no doubt in him winning this if the ground was good and the race was at Cheltenham, but I feel he could just fall short to one or two others in the conditions. Though he is definitely a Gold Cup horse.

FIRST LIEUTENANT - Chased home Bob’s Worth in the RSA, though has not looked spot-on in his two starts this season. He will prefer the conditions much more than Bob’s Worth today, but he finished very tired last time at Down Royal in a race you feel he should of been winning, so the question remains if he is up to winning a big-race like this.

HOLD ON JULIO - A lightly-raced individual as he has had his problems, but there is no doubt he has talent, as he showed when beating the Grand National winner by 9-lengths at Sandown last season. He made a decent reappearance at Cheltenham last time and should be in peak form for today. You’d expect him to be there with two to jump, but he will have had to have stepped up to be winning this.

LION NA BEARNAI - Won the Irish National off a low weight, but he looks to have plenty on his plate today (having his reappearance) and this looks a stepping-stone to something further down the line.

CARRUTHERS - A gallant winner of this race last year, but has been out of sorts since. Only three horses have won the race twice (Denman, Arkle and Mandarin) and only Arkle has won back-to-back runnings. As loved as he is, Carruthers is no Arkle.

THE PACKAGE - Has had more injuries than Kieron Dyer, but has plenty of ability as he showed when winning, what looked, a competitive Badger Ales at Wincanton last time. The main concern is that he has never followed up after a win and it would be some feat for him to do it today. There are races later in the season to be won with him.

TEAFORTHREE - Although he looks to have the ideal conditions, connections have made no secret that his main target is the Welsh National. So today looks like another step towards that. He could run into a place, as others struggle to cope with the conditions.

FRUITY O’ROONEY - A tough character who will handle the conditions, but he looks to be a shade out of his depth today.

SAINT ARE - His sole two wins have been at Aintree and this is a stiff enough reappearance for a horse who’s two wins have been at the end of the season.

DUKE OF LUCCA - A consistent individual, but the races he has picked up were in small uncompetitive fields. The opposite of today.

DIAMOND HARRY - Has not been the same horse since winning this race in 2010. He has had a number of problems, which had apparently all been ironed-out, before he missed his intended target of the Charlie Hall Chase. He ran no sort of race last time in the Badger Ales, which is a huge concern. He has a lovely weight and if the old Diamond Harry turned up, who knows? But he is too risky a proposition, the only hope is that returning to the scene of his greatest win will spark him back to life.

MAGNANIMITY - Was well beaten by the mighty Sizing Europe last time. The worry being he has never won over two and a half miles under rules and looks the owners second-string.

HARRY THE VIKING - An out-and-out stayer, who ran a disappointing race at Cheltenham last time with the excuse looking to be the ground, it won’t be much better here, so is one to rule out despite connections.

IKORODU ROAD - Has a very good record at Newbury in lesser-races, but all on good ground.

FRISCO DEPOT - Seemed to be going well in a weak race before falling last time out. Top amateur jockey Sam Whaley-Cohen must not have eaten for a week to do the weight so you can’t rule out, but coming into a race like this on the back of a fall is not the most encouraging.

SOLL - Was quite fancied for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival, before being brought down. Very lightly raced and loves soft under-foot conditions, the main worry is this is his reappearance. If you were going to have a bet on an outsider it would be him as he is so unexposed.

ALFIE SPINNER - A mud lover with no weight, but looks a little out of his depth here.

Verdict: There are many horses to consider in this race but also a lot of questions marks are to be answered, with vital stats against some. Bob’s Worth looks to have a great chance, but on his reappearance on ground that is against him, the chance is taken on top-weight TIDAL BAY to get the better of him, in conditions he excels in. The lightly raced Hold On Julio looks the best chance of chasing them home. Diamond Harry would be there IF returning to form.

1st - TIDAL BAY
2nd - Bob’s Worth
3rd - Hold On Julio


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