The Hennessy Gold Cup (3.00pm, Newbury, Saturday), run over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, is the highlight of the Hennessy Heritage Festival. The race is considered an important early season trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, being a handicap, pits some of the best staying chasers in the country against lesser rivals on equal terms.
Lord Windermere (15/2), winner of the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen in March, has been promoted to favourite after some bullish remarks by trainer Jim Culloty earlier in the week.
The Oscar gelding is 8lb worse off for 7¾ lengths with Hadrian’s Approach (12/1) on their running in the RSA Chase and has to prove his stamina over an extra two furlongs after an absence of 262 days. Nevertheless, his trainer’s assertion that he is “twice the horse he was last year” is difficult to ignore, particularly as the last three RSA Chase winners who ran in the Hennessy Gold Cup in the same year all won.
Rocky Creek (8/1) is another who has been well supported in the week leading up to the £175,000 handicap after a successful 2012/13 campaign, which saw him win three of his five starts over fences, including the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, over 3 miles, at Ascot. He’s another with his stamina to prove after a lengthy absence, but he’s well treated with Houblon Des Obeaux on their running at Ascot and appeals as one of the more likely winners.
Invictus (10/1) is 5lb lower in the weights than when beating Bobs Worth, who was conceding just 3lb, by three lengths in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot 21 months ago. So, purely from a handicapping point of view, he appears to have an excellent chance. His trainer, Alan King, reports him a fit as he can be after an absence of 651 days, due to a tendon injury. Backing any horse that’s been off the course for that length of time requires a leap of faith and, frankly, he’s hard to recommend.
Our Father (10/1) ran just three times last season, winning impressively on his reappearance, as he had the previous season, but was hugely disappointing when tailed off behind Unioniste and Hadrian’s Approach when last seen at Newbury in February. He may be best fresh, which may account for strong support in the ante-post betting market, but he looked a non-stayer when tried over 3 miles 1½ furlongs at Cheltenham, albeit on heavy going, last December and any value about him is long gone.
Highland Lodge (12/1) made a promising reappearance when beaten 1¾ lengths by subsequent winner Standing Ovation over 3m3½f at Wincanton last month. His stamina is guaranteed, but he steps back up in class off a 7lb higher mark and that’s probably enough to prevent him from winning.
Of those at longer odds, Triolo D’Alene (20/1) is 10lb better off for nine lengths with Houblon Des Obeaux (16/1) on their running in the United House Gold Cup, over 3m, at Ascot earlier this month. He showed progressive form towards the end of last season and, as a lightly-raced six-year-old, may still be capable of further improvement.
As a footnote, Ian Robinson, spokesman for the Our Friends In The North syndicate, which owns Imperial Commander (20/1), said earlier in the week that the Hennessy Gold Cup would be the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner’s last race. While a fairytale ending may be beyond the 12-year-old, let’s just hope he comes back safely and enjoys a happy retirement.
Hennessy Gold Cup Betting Tips
The Hennessy Gold Cup is, as usual, hugely competitive, but our betting tip advice is to back LORD WINDERMERE at a best price of 15/2 with SkyBet to become the first Irish-trained winner for 33 years. He has excellent credentials and can follow in the footsteps of Trabolgan, Denman and Bobs Worth in winning the RSA Chase and the Hennessy Gold Cup in the same calendar year.