The Hennessy Gold Cup is the first major handicap chase of the season for staying chasers. Next Saturday’s premier event held at Newbury,has a typically competitive field on paper so far. Second season novices with future Gold Cup aspiration are often the desired type but established handicappers and Grade 1 performers are on the winners list also. It’s hard to knock anyone out on that basis but with soft ground looking likely the ability to stay in excess of 3 miles should be a major factor this year.
The Irish have a poor record in the race but Djakadam has been a talking horse for some time and was the subject of support last week to bring his price down to a high of 5/1 currently. His mark of 142 is probably right on what he has achieved so far but his home reputation is such that he could well be leniently handicapped. The Mullins/Walsh combination will prove irresistible to some but it has to be a negative that the only time he has raced in a really competitive chase his jumping let him down and he fell at the Cheltenham Festival last year. This race should be even more emphasis on jumping and allied to the fact that is stamina is totally unproven I will have to pass him by.
Many Clouds comes next in the list at 7/1. While he is a second season chaser he did have his peers in the novice division last year and I feel he is highly rated enough with a mark of 151 now. Stamina and fitness shouldn’t be a problem but I feel others are better treated – place potential still for him.
Fingal Bay comes next at 8/1 representing the bang in form Philip Hobbs stable. His novice chase season didn’t go to plan at all last season and he ended up reverting to hurdles. It seems a big ask to throw him in here off a mark of 153 with no chasing experience at top level and it’s only the stable form that keeps his price low for me.
Rocky Creek and Smad Place come next at 10/1. The former was second in this race last year on good ground – looking as if his stamina was stretched just a bit too far on the run-in. This was seen similarly in the Grand National. So with the ground likely to be much softer this year and a 5lb higher mark I will be avoiding him this time.
Smad Place has more of the traditional winners profile for this race. Only just touched off in last season’s RSA chase, he has winning form at this track and isn’t that badly treated on a mark of 155 considering he got to 161 over hurdles. I can see him progressing to Gold Cup level this season but do have a slight concern if he’ll be fit enough on his seasonal debut here. If he is close to 100% I can see him being a major player and the main threat to my selection which is….The Druids Nephew.
An old friend of mine having tipped him up at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013, The Druids Nephew seems to finally displaying the potential he showed early on in his career now that he has switched stables to Neil Mulholland. He ran off his mark of 141 when beaten at Cheltenham last time where he seemed to be ridden as if stamina was a concern. Ultimately he stayed the trip fine over a longer trip than this but perhaps gave the winner there Sam Winner (entered here but looks an unlikely runner) a bit too much rope up front in so doing and couldn’t quite peg him back on the run in.
He ran well enough to prompt the handicapper to raise him by 6lb to 147 but still gets in off his old mark here and so is consequently 6lb well in.
That fact alone should sound some warning bells that his price of 16/1 is plenty big enough. Barry Geraghty rode him on that occasion but could be claimed for one of the Henderson outsiders in the race this time. However, AP Mc Coy rode him the time before that and there is no obvious ride for the champion jockey in the race so far on the weekend that should see his return to action. This would seem to be the natural choice for him.
1pt ew The Druids Nephew 16/1 (still fairly general but expect to see prices go when 5 day decs come out on Monday morning)
Current ante post prices can be seen here:
Best of luck to all with whatever you back – this will be the last post on the blog this year as I take time off in December so hoping for an early Christmas present here!
Thanks for reading and will be back in the New Year