3.00 Newbury: Hennessy Gold Cup (Grade 3 Handicap)
It’s great to see Bobs Worth back as a contender for a big race. His prep over hurdles when beating Simonsing was encouraging but I find it hard to trust him to back it up stepping up to 3m plus in a much tougher race.
Ante-post favourite Saphir Du Rheu has top credentials. His trainer knows what it takes to win the race. The six year old could still be on the up and looked striving on his seasonal debut. That says 11-12 is a tough ask and it needs a special performance.
I struggle to see why Smad Place is as short as he is, as in my mind he will struggle in a deep race like this off a big weight. If In Doubt has still not too many miles on the clock for a seven year; he could bounce back given he’s on a handy mark.
Ned Stark and The Young Master will enjoy this test of stamina in soft conditions. Both have fair credentials and could still have a bit more to offer.
Seemingly not too much love from the punters gets last years Hennessy runner-up Houblon Des Obeaux. True, his seasonal return late in October wasn’t all too encouraging, but also not completely off putting, given another crack at the Hennessy was always the target.
He was a fine second behind subsequent Grand National winner Many Clouds but is one pound lower rated today. If in the same sort of form he must have a big chance given he backed this run up with two other strong performances subsequently.
Houblon Des Obeaux @ 14/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win
This years Festival feature race looks wide open. There is no real outstanding candidate in the race. Or is there? Normally, Silviniaco Conti would be a red hot favourite in anyone’s book. He has the best form this season, and clearly is the number one chaser around at the moment. His Kempton King George success is the standout piece of form – undoubtedly. Trainer Paul Nicholls insists that all past problems have been solved and therefore he won’t falter again the way he did in last years Gold Cup after jumping the last, when he actually looked the sure winner. I’m not convinced, however To my eyes he simply looks a horse tailor-made for flat tracks, like Kempton and Aintree. For that reason I oppose him today.
There are plenty of new kids on the block. Novice Coneygree is a super exciting prospect. I really like him. He gets his ground with the rain arriving. But he’s a novice. That is not an easy task today. Road To Riches and Many Clouds are the improvers. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be competitive. Carlingford Lough also falls into this category and I like his profile. But the more rain’s falling, the more his chances are faltering. Willie Mullins’ best chance is rising star Djakadam. Another progressive sort, but he is a very short price in this competitive race given his form.
Holywell is tipped by many to give AP McCoy the perfect farewell gift. He has been improving throughout the season and looks primed for a big run. He loves it around Cheltenham and stays. Surely it would be lovely to see him winning. But is he good enough? I remain a doubter.
What about the old brigade? Bob’s Worth, a former Gold Cup winner. Hard to trust these days with lack of recent form. Last years winner Lord Windermere hasn’t shown much this year either. Though an improved effort in the Hennessy may bring him nicely along. He’s trained with only this one race in mind. But the 2014 renewal was a strange race. I don’t trust the form.
Boston Bob and On His Own, two more Mullins horses. The latter one was runner-up last year. As mentioned before, a strange race. He done well this winter in the Lexus Chase and is not out of this, clearly he is a better chance than Boston Bob in my mind.
A bit the forgotten horse is The Giant Bolster. He absolutely loves it around Cheltenham and with a bit luck he would have won at least one Gold Cup in recent years. His jumping can be a problem sometimes, but he has the heart and guts to be a big runner once again today. At 40/1 with four places, he is well overpriced and his chances underestimated. He usually comes alive at this time of the year, and it is wise to ignore anything he has shown up to this point this season.
The Giant Bolster @ 40/1 Bet365 – 2.5pts EW
One couldn’t have written the tale any better. There is Tony McCoy, the world’s most successful jockey. A legend of this sport. One whose name is synonymous with jump racing. There he is, announcing his retirement at the end of the season. He did this after winning a big race at Newbury on Saturday. He wanted to do it on his own terms. Put and end to the speculations surrounding him and his 20th champion jockey title.
And there he is, parading in front of the frenetic Leopardstown crowd. He and his mount Carlingford Lough just won main event, the Hennessy Gold Cup. Just another piece in the breathtaking career, for McCoy, the once little boy, born in Moneyglass, Country Antrim of Northern Ireland, who made his way to the summit of the sport without the benefit of having a family with background in the game.
This morning on the way to work I heard an interview with him on the Irish radio station Newstalk FM. McCoy, collected, calm, yet somehow emotional in his voice, reflected on the weekend, his decision to retire – but felt awkwardly distanced to the idea of what may lie in front of him – once he jumps off the horses back for the last time. What’s then AP? Who knows. For the moment, it is hard to envision jump racing without him. And thanks god, for a couple more weeks we don’t have to get used to this thought.
So let’s just sit back and enjoy the man at what he’s best: Riding winners! Relieve the Hennessy Gold Cup again, in the video below – it also has to be stated that I tipped McCoy and Carlingford Lough to win the Hennessy. Which obviously makes it an even better story… for me personally at least!