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Hennessy Gold Cup preview

Close to my favourite jumps race of the season, the Hennessy at Newbury. Why? Because it's a top class handicap, something I was brought up on in Australia but are rarer than an honest politician in Britain. Where the top horses can prove their greatness by conceding weight to emerging talents and still beat them. Set weights and WFA races bore me when you have the likes of Nicky Henderson moaning about lack of opportunities so he'd rather leave his horses at home rather than run them against each other before Cheltenham or simply consult the BHA's interactive race programming facility to find suitable races. Great publicity for the industry..... The championship features are great in that format, but not all the lead up races as well - we get stuck with the farcical situation of two and four runner pattern races like at Ascot last weekend. [/rantover]

Covering this great race for the blog is a long-time contributor, Jack Milner, @jjmsports. He now appears courtesy of BetVictor.

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Hennessy Gold Cup

Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup headlines three fantastic days of jump racing at Newbury as the National Hunt Season gets well and truly in full swing (Ed - just beware the over the top/outdated dress code).

The race has a history of favouring second-season chasers, the likes of Denman (2007), Diamond Harry (2009) and last year’s winner Bobs Worth all succeeding and despite not being seen for 18 months Invictus has been warm since betting opened, last seen beating last year’s winner Bobs Worth in The Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot. Nicky Henderson’s subsequent Gold Cup winner won from a mark of 160 yet Invictus runs from a mark of 145; does he have over a stone in hand as the figures would suggest?

Jim Culloty’s Lord Windermere and Willie Mullins' Prince De Beauchene (14/1 from 20/1 with BetVictor after Ruby Walsh was confirmed to ride) have both been backed, seeking to give Ireland their first winner of the race in 33 years; their second since Arkle’s famous win in 1965. Lord Windermere is seeking to be the third consecutive horse attempting to do the RSA/Hennessy double after Denman and Bobs Worth; both incidentally going onto win The Gold Cup to complete a memorable treble.

Hennessy Gold Cup Prices from BetVictor
Rocky Creek 7/1
Lord Windermere 7/1
Our Father 8/1
Highland Lodge 10/1
Invictus 10/1
Hadrians Approach 10/1
Merry King 12/1
Prince De Beauchene 14/1
Katenko 14/1
16/1 Bar
EW ¼ 1-2-3-4

The most interesting runner in the race without question is David Pipe’s runner Our Father, the trainer in red-hot form; Dynaste running a terrific race in defeat when chasing home Cue Card in the Betfair Chase to earn quotes of 7/1 for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and 4/1 for the King George on Boxing Day. The master of Pond House completed a four-timer following Dell Arca’s win in the Greatwood at Cheltenham, completing at four-timer on the day when rounded off by Red Sherlock win in the bumper, in the colours of his late owner David Johnson.

The late David Johnson and his family own a share of Our Father and Timmy Murphy looks set to partner him on Saturday with the key to the 7-y-o being his record fresh. He won a competitive Ascot handicap in December 2011, before doting up at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting to beat Paul Nicholls’ Sire Collognes by 20 lengths; again first time out. A mark of 147 looks to flatter him and providing he handles quicker ground than he’s used to, he look sure to go very close indeed.

The race looks to be a stone lower in class compared to recent times, Cape Tribulation heading the weights from an official mark of 158, Tidal Bay likewise from 170, the latter proving himself a solid Grade 1 animal where Malcolm Jefferson’s 9yo looks very poorly handicapped. Loch Ba would be interesting at 33/1 however if an animal rated 133 can win a Hennessy it is a very poor affair indeed.

Venetia’s horses are in good nick and she has Katenko,(who would want it bottomless) with Aidan Coleman opting to ride ahead of Houblon Des Obeaux, who fits the profile of a second-season chaser with strong form in novice company. A 10lb hike for beating Merry King at Ascot looks a bit harsh however, and he will now have to toil out three-mile handicap chases to come back to a workable mark, or take his chance in higher grade.

Nicky Henderson is another with two intended runners; surprisingly Barry Geraghty has ditched Hadrian's Approach to ride Triolo D’Alene, third behind the two mentioned horses at Ascot at the start of the month. Hadrian's Approach has been well backed in the week with us at BetVictor and will have the services of Nico De Bonville taking off a useful 5lb.

Highland Lodge chased home Standing Ovation, who went onto win since, which looks a strong form line despite David Pipe’s horse missing out on the four-timer – given a poor ride throughout and didn’t look to suit jumping left-handed. Leighton Aspell rides for the first time and Emma Lavelle’s charge is undoubtedly well handicapped.

The more I look through the race the more I feel it’s there for the taking for Pipe’s OUR FATHER. There will be lots of pace in the race with the likes of Highland Lodge, Theatre Guide and Rocky Creek all likely to be prominent and I would be disappointed if Timmy Murphy isn’t able to sit in the rear and bide his time before creeping into it two out. His record fresh and the stable’s current form make him a cracking each way prospect at the 8/1 mark, Donald McCain’s Super Duty looking the value a the bigger prices, 20/1 with BetVictor and Jason Maguire legged up to ride.

Our Father 3pts EW at 8/1 with BetVictor
Super Duty 1pt EW at 20/1 with BetVictor

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