The Hennessy Gold Cup, run over 3m2½f at Newbury, looks particularly competitive and the winner will require an abundance of stamina (3pm, Saturday).
No five-year-old has won this race but Djakadam (9/2) heads the Hennessy Gold Cup betting after just three starts over fences, including a fall in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The son of top French jumps sire Saint Des Saints will almost certainly rate higher than his current handicap of 142 in the future but, at this stage, lacks experience of the hurly burly associated with a race of this nature. He tackles a distance beyond 2m5f for the first time after an absence of over eight months and is a short price for what he’s achieved so far.
Smad Place (8/1) unseated his rider on his chasing debut at Huntingdon last November, but progressed well throughout last season, culminating with a neck second to O’Faolain’s Boy in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He has his stamina to prove over an extra quarter of a mile after a lengthy absence, but his win over 3m on heavy going at Newbury last February augurs well for his chances and he goes well fresh. He was rated 158 over hurdles and, at the age of seven, still has the potential to become an even better chaser.
One horse that shouldn’t fail through lack of stamina is The Druids Nephew (11/1), who lost nothing in defeat when staying on to finish second, beaten 1¼ length, behind Sam Winner over 3m3½f at Cheltenham a fortnight ago. That represented a career-best effort by the improving King’s Theatre gelding and, off the same handicap mark, he must have bright prospects of making it two wins from three starts this season.
The Druids Nephew’s trainer Neil Mulholland (pictured) is proving to be an outstanding young talent and his yard is in great form at the moment.
Last year’s first and second, Triolo D’Alene (25/1) and Rocky Creek (10/1) reoppose but are respectively 10lb and 5lb higher in the weights this time. Rocky Creek fared the better of the pair in the Grand National and, although he had no answers to easy winner Road To Riches in Down Royal’s Champion Chase on his reappearance four weeks ago, looks likely to do so again. Stamina clearly isn’t an issue, he has winning form on soft going and trainer Paul Nicholls reports him “in a good place with himself,” so he must be on any shortlist.
Of those at longer odds, Houblon Des Obeaux (33/1) remains 3lb higher in the weights than when a staying on sixth in this race last year, but should appreciate the cut in the ground. He ought to find this easier than the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree, both of which he contested last season. Venetia Williams has been among the winners of late and if there is to be a surprise Houblon Des Obeaux could be the one to cause it.
This year’s Hennessy Gold Cup presents a fiendishly difficult puzzle for punters to solve, but our betting tips advice is to bet on THE DRUIDS NEPHEW each-way at current best odds of 11/1 with SkyBet (LATEST BETTING UPDATE: Best odds are now 10/1 with Betfred, Ladbrokes or Betfair Sportsbook). He looks better than ever this season and will be staying on when many of the others have cried enough.