It’s still the Hennessy Gold Cup to me, but whatever name you call Newbury’s flagship race of their jumps’ season on Saturday 15.00 there will probably be a top-class staying chaser lurking among the maximum field of 24.
Dingo Dollar was an admirable third last year, jumping like a stag for 7/8ths of the race before his stamina gave out on the deep ground, and it could be the very same story again. I fancy Alan King’s charge will be placed though so watch out for Paddy’s each-way places that are normally enhanced on these big races.
Elegant Escape has the scope and size to carry his 11-12 with honour. His opening gambit this season when an honourable second in the Charlie Hall was at least the equal of his win in the Welsh National and bound to come on for the run – I suspect he is outstanding each-way value in this famous event at 9/1.
However, if we get more rain then the likes of the enigmatic Daklondike (fit from a run over hurdles) and THE CONDITIONAL at 16/1 could run well at massive odds.
The problem with the former is that he is prone to the odd blunder and in such a big field, where they will blast off from the start he could well become outpaced.
By contrast The Conditional has a much higher cruising speed and was hugely impressive when beating West Approach last time out – (form cemented by Colin Tizzard’s charge next time out at Cheltenham.
On the very same terms, I cannot understand why he is a 16/1 shot at time of writing – and his old rival is fully four points shorter.
EPATANTE was a huge disappointment in the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but has reportedly strengthened up considerably since then and schooled impressively at home.
She is set to make her comeback in the Intermediate Hurdle at 14.25 and at the weights could prove too strong for the likes of Scarlet Dragon (wouldn’t want too much rain) and Star of Lanka.
The Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle 15.20 looks, for obvious reasons, a much more attractive betting medium than the Fighting Fifth Buveur ‘D’Air’ Hurdle at 14.05.
TOP VILLE BEN looked badly in need of his first outing in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and we will see a totally different athlete this time around. Only if The Conditional is switched to this relatively easier task would I change my allegiance away from Philip Kirby’s charge in the Rehearsal Chase at 15.20.
I remember being part of a Paddy Power sponsored panel before the Cheltenham Festival and disagreeing with the rest of the better informed jockeys and trainers sitting next to me that Samcro simply wasn’t the next coming and simply hadn’t beaten much in his novice hurdles career to date.
It’s the kind of view I regularly take running against the herd and it usually gets me into trouble as I was roundly booed at the end of my short, but succinct ‘speech’.
But in horse racing it normally pays to have an isolated view and I am once again happy to oppose Gordon Elliot’s charge in the Drinmore Chase on Sunday (Fairyhouse 13.30).
For in receipt of a very handy 8lbs weight for age, I strongly fancy that the four-year-old, FAKIR D’OUDARIES, could have the big horse’s number here.
There was nothing wrong with Samcro’s opening gambit over the larger obstacles at Down Royal, but he had nothing more than a school around, beating a very ordinary maiden hurdler easily in Trappist Monk who has subsequently fallen at the first on his next outing.
That form is a mile away from the three-length win of Fakir on his fencing debut when he beat up the odds-on favourite Melon decisively at Navan in a Beginners Chase.
The JLT Chase is the ultimate aim for Joseph O’Brien’s charge and the current second favourite in Sunday’s contest here is my main bet of what looks a vintage weekend of NH racing on the back of last week’s ultimate match-ups.
Finally, have a second look at top weight BELL HEATHER @ 18/1 at Wolverhampton in the 18.20 on Saturday. The six-year-old has plummeted down the handicap, but more importantly returns to her optimum trip of 7f here.
If Barry McHugh gets her into a good rhythm from her outside stall she could easily mow down these inferior rivals in the short home stretch.
*Prices & entries correct at time of publication.