It’s many people’s favourite race of the year and this year’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury has once again delivered a star billing.
It’s a unique race in that it’s the only real chance top-class second-season chasers get to race off a workable mark and it is run at one of the best jumping tests in the country.
Some of the very best chasers have won the Hennessy, including Denman and Bobs Worth, who returns with a chance here, in recent years, and year on year it serves as one of the best Gold Cup trials of the season.
Despite the late defection of reigning Gold Cup champ Coneygree, this year’s renewal looks well up to standard and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we see a few horses that goes onto win plenty more races.
Saphir Du Rheu is the sexy horse with the right make-up in the field as he’s a genuine Gold Cup hope, but I’ve got my doubts about him off a big weight.
The horse that is getting some of my money this year is actually the horse I punted in this very race last year – Fingal Bay.
He was pulled up that day after never going a yard, but he returns one year on 9lbs lower in the weights and is a backable price around the 14/1 with each way stakes in mind.
It’s relevant to note that this time last year the horse was a 6/1 shot.
With weight even more on side, he has to be backed with each way stakes.
When this horse first burst onto the scene I thought this was a Gold Cup winner in waiting.
Tough, gritty and a slick jumper, he is only one of two horses to have ever beat Simonsig – that is the level of ability we are talking about.
His profile since that win has been littered with mistakes and injuries, which has severely restricted his progress for trainer Phillip Hobbs, who has said that this horse is one of the best he’s ever trained.
Yet, he’s still yet to win a big race over timber. A Cheltenham Festival winner yes, but that came over the smaller obstacles in a very tasty Pertemps Final that produced plenty of winners. That shows to me that he has all the necessary qualities to be a force in big handicaps over the staying distances even in a race of this magnitude.
Many will quibble at his reappearance run at Kempton, where he was beaten by Smad Place, who is among the market leaders for the Hennessy. However, in the context of this race, Fingal Bay ran a perfectly acceptable pipe-opener that day, jumping, arguably, better than he ever has before just getting outstayed over the final fence where Smad Place was well on top.
Jockey Richard Johnson has huge faith in this horse and the Hobbs yard will have brought him on from that Kempton run.
I will be stunned if he’s not bang there jumping the third last. From there, anything is possible.
Get on the 14/1.
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