The Hennessy Gold Cup is a cracker and don’t be fooled into thinking it will be run in a bog. I walked the course last Wednesday and it will be good to soft unless there’s an unexpected downpour.
When I won the race on Trabolgan in 2005 it was if I had the ‘green light’ at every fence. Initially I thought he had everything against him as he was carrying top weight, but it all worked out.
It proved to me that class counts in the Hennessy and Saturday’s race will be no different. I’ve tried to avoid the hype, but I keep coming back to the same two horses as potential winners, namely Native River and Blaklion.
Newbury suits stamina-laden, aggressive front runners as Smad Place proved last year. If they dominate at the front it’s very hard for others to pass them. Give them an easy lead and they’ll make you pay.
Colin Tizzard’s masterstroke in running Native River over hurdles means his chase mark is protected and he’s ready to run for his life for Richard Johnson. He’s got form at Newbury too.
Blaklion reminds me of the former Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth (a Hennessy winner in 2012) in that he’s terrier-like, honest and gets on with it.
And second-season novices in early-season handicap chases have very good records here as previous RSA Chase winners Trabolgan, Denman and Bobs Worth have proven.
The 3m 1f Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree could be the key form guide here with the first four home that day (Native River, Henri Parry Morgan, Blaklion and Un Temps Pour Tout) all going into battle again.
All have had nice preps bar Henri Parry Morgan, but he’s had had two racecourse gallops at Ffos Las to get him ready.
One horse that I could almost guarantee would win a Hennessy IF he jumps from fence to fence and avoids early mistakes is Paul Nicholls’ Vicente. He only went up 5lbs for winning a Scottish National last season and I think he’s very capable. If he jumps well on Saturday, I can’t see him out of the frame at a nice price in a race where Paddy is paying the first five home.
Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc has been well backed and was fifth in the RSA Chase last season. But he had every chance to win that day and still has a bit to find for me.
Jade’s ready for a Royal rumble
Sceau Royal looks a better horse this year and has been putting his races to bed with ease, which he wasn’t doing last season. He’s looking for his first Grade One win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle 2.55pm company but until they’ve done it on the big stage, there’s always that doubt in your mind.
There’s proven Grade One performers in this field including Irving, Petit Mouchoir and last season’s wonder filly Apple’s Jade.
On softer ground, with a run under her belt, Gordon Elliott’s charge can get back to winning ways. Bryan Cooper has gotten off Apple’s Jade in favour of Petit Mouchoir but I’ve no worries on that score with rising star Jack Kennedy.
Both these Gigginstown Stud horses were only with their new trainers a month when they disappointed at Down Royal on quick ground, after leaving Willie Mullins’ yard. They’ll have a better handle on them now.
Irving seems to go best fresh and won this in 2014. But does he still have the same improvement in him as an eight-year-old that the younger brigade have? Having said that, look at the 11-year-old Hidden Cyclone. He’s getting better with age but this is another step up.
The rest of the TV races are a mixed bag and ON TOUR Newbury 1.30pm looks an each-way punt after a good run at Aintree behind Thomas Brown on his reappearance.
There’s a poor turnout for the Novices Hurdle at Newcastle 1.45pm with just four runners set to line up but the unbeaten Get On The Yager looks the play.
The handicap hurdle (2.05pm) has to be about Onefitzall for my racing club who was second to Definitly Red at Carlisle on his handicap debut last month. The obvious danger is market rival Born Survivor of Dan Skelton but a good run by my lads would be a big pointer to Definitly Red’s chance in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle 3.30pm where Virak can hit a place.
The Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury (2.40pm) could see Philip Hobbs’ Ozzie the Oscar follow up his Wetherby win last time out and add to his decent course form when first and second on his last two runs here.