23 Horses stand their ground at the six-day declaration stage for Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury with only 6lb covering the first eleven horses in the weights for the £175k three mile two and a half furlong handicap headed by Houblon Des Obeaux and last year’s winner Triolo D’Alene on 11st 12lb, 1lb more than the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek who will attempt to go one better than 12 months ago for which his owner Andy Stewart is confidently expecting a big run, saying: “This has always been his target, he’ll be spot-on, and Sam ( Twiston-Davies ) rides.”
“Paul put him in the Grade 1 at Down Royal and said he wouldn’t trouble the judge but it would get him fit, so it was a bit of a surprise and very pleasing when he was second.” As well as Rocky Creek ( a best price 10-1 with Betfred, Betvictor and Ladbrokes ) Nicholls has another two possible runners in the shape of Black Thunder and Unioniste although the former also holds an entry in Saturday’s Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle while the trainer will need to discuss the latter’s target with owner John Hales who won the race with the versatile One Man in 1994.
The going at the Berkshire track is currently soft, with heavy places on the hurdles track, a description which holds no fears for in-form trainer Philip Hobbs who is looking forward to running his leading contender Fingal Bay ( 8-1 with several bookmakers including Coral and William Hill ), saying “He’s in very good order and is a high-class horse. To win a race off top weight at the Cheltenham Festival ( Pertemps Final ) proved that. This has been the target for a long time. I don’t think the handicapper has been particularly lenient ( set to carry 11st 8lb ) but he’s on a workable mark.”
“I’m not in the slightest bit concerned about the ground. Soft would be grand, and though you never really want heavy he would cope with it better than most.” Jockey Wayne Hutchinson will not be renewing his partnership with the strongly fancied Smad Place ( 8-1 Bet365 and Betfred ) after being ruled out of the meeting with a knee injury while Djakadam continues to harden at the head of the market and is now no bigger than 4-1 to give trainer Willie Mullins his first victory in the historic handicap, although his By My Royal was successful in 2002 but was later disqualified due to a banned substance being found in a sample.