The Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday 28th November has all the hallmarks of a vintage renewal following the publication of the weights for the famous three mile two furlong handicap chase won 12 months ago by subsequent Crabbie’s Grand National winner Many Clouds.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Punchestown Gold Cup winner Don Cossack tops the handicap on 11st 12lb although the Sholokhov gelding is a most unlikely runner according to connections who anticipate the eight-year-old heading straight to Kempton on Boxing Day for the King George VI Chase, for which the horse is currently a general 4-1 second favourite behind 11-4 ( William Hill ) market leader Vautour.
In the likely event of Ireland’s top-rated staying chaser bypassing the Berkshire track last season’s outstanding novice, and the first of that standing to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup for over 40 years – Coneygree, will almost certainly be faced with conceding weight all round, a feat last achieved by Denman in 2009.
Mark Bradstock’s popular son of Karinga Bay heads the ante-post betting for Newbury at 9-2 with most bookmakers but is available at 5-1 with Betfred, the same price as chief market rival Saphir Du Rheu who will be in receipt of 9lb from the reigning champion after being allocated 11st by the handicapper.
The powerful Irish stable of Willie Mullins has five possible contenders headed by RSA Chase winner Don Poli ( also handicapped on 11st ) but has yet to confirm any of the quintet and the Closutton handler may well end up without a representative, despite the talent at his disposal. The only other possible Irish contenders are Spring Heeled for Gold Cup-winning trainer Jim Culloty and Mouse Morris’s First Lieutenant who finished third behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 renewal.
The winner on that occasion went on to take the Gold Cup on his very next start and with the exception of a win in the following season’s Lexus Chase at Leopardstown has been mainly disappointing, resulting in his rating dropping from a high of 180 to 153. Nicky Henderson’s charge showed he is no back number just yet with a victory over stablemate Simonsig in an Aintree hurdle race recently and the ten-year-old looks absolutely ‘ thrown-in ‘ if able to produce anything like his best form when reverting back to the bigger obstacles, and is a tempting proposition at the 12-1 quoted by most firms.
Other interesting possibilities at this stage are two-time World Hurdle third Smad Place ( 12-1 ), recent Ascot scorer Pendra ( 18-1 Betway ) and the Philip Hobbs-trained If In Doubt ( 25-1 generally ) who would have a great chance off a featherweight if able to brush up the jumping errors prevalent as a novice.