First run in 1957 The Hennessy Gold Cup has been won by some of the great names of national hunt racing including Mandarin, who won the inaugural running, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad, and more recently Denman who won in 2007 and again in 2009, carrying 11st 12lbs on both occasions. Run at Newbury over 3ml 2 1/2f, stamina is an absolute prerequisite. Most previous winners have been improving animals, very often second season chasers, who have performed at a high level during their initial year over fences. Big weights have been no bar to success in recent years, with seven of the last ten winners carrying more than 11st, and both Trabolgan and Denman winning with the steadier of 11st 12lbs on their back. The R.S.A. Chase at the festival has been a good guide, with six of the last ten winners having contested it. Irish trained winners are a rarity, Bright Highway being the most recent in 1980. Willie Mullins’s Be My Royal was first past the post in 2002 but was subsequently disqualified.
Alan King entertains high hopes for his tough and classy 7yo Smad Place. He ran a great race in the R.S.A. At the festival only giving best to O’Faolains Boy in literally the last stride of the contest. Winner of two of his four chases, one of them was in glue pot conditions at Newbury in Febuary where he disposed of the useful Sam Winner, so Saturday’s ground won’t be a concern. Having been placed in two World Hurdles he certainly has classy credentials and there is every indication that he will be an even better chaser than hurdler. Definitley one for the short list!
Willie Mullins’s 5yo Djakadam is a fascinating runner. No 5yo has ever won the Hennessy ( only two have tried in the last decade) so can he make it a first? He was travelling as though he might be involved in the finish when coming down at the fourth last in the R.S.A. And if that was the case he looks very well treated on Saturday. He relishes testing conditions and has been backed as if already past the post, but to this observer odds of 4/1 seem decidedly skinny for a horse that has only contested three chases, even though he won two of them. However with Mullins winning all before him and Ruby Walsh in the plate he is very hard to dismiss.
Paul Nicholls’s c.v includes two riding successes ( Broadheath and Playschool ) and two training successes ( Denman twice) in the Hennessy, so he certainly knows what is required. Rocky Creek boasts many of the attributes necessary to improve Paul’s c.v further. He ran a blinder in last years renewal finishing second to Triolo D’Alene on unsuitably fast ground, going down by 2 3/4L. He meets the winner on 5lbs better terms on Saturday and with ground conditions in his favour has every chance of reversing last years placings.
Another who was unsuited by last years fast ground was the sixth home, Houblon des Obeaux . Taken off his feet early on he was the strongest finisher and almost caught Merry King in fifth. He showed his best form before Christmas last year winning twice at Ascot, the second time off a mark of 152, so Saturday’s Mark of 155 looks reasonable. With ground conditions in his favour he is worth considering at his current odds of 33/1.
Oliver Sherwood’s 7yo Many Clouds departed at the fourteenth in the R.S.A but made a very taking reappearance over 2 1/2ml at demanding Carlisle four weeks ago. Jumping like a veteran he made smooth headway to lead three out and when pressed on the testing uphill finish kept on very strongly indeed in the manner of a true stayer. He is raised 7lbs but with Saturday’s distance likely to elicit further improvement he is another to consider.
Selection. Smad Place.
E.W. Many Clouds.