Great Endeavour Can Land Hennessy Gold Cup
Although the Paul Nicholls trained Aiteen Thirtythree is likely to go off as the favourite for this Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup, he will by no means be a particularly strong one. The Hennessy this year has attracted a strong field, which includes, second year chasers, Grade One winners and seasoned handicappers many of which are in with decent chances to win this most prestigious of Handicap Chases on the UK National Hunt Racing Calendar.
It is not a bad race for favourites, with two outrights and one joint winning the race in the last ten years and the vast majority of the other winners in that time frame have usually been well backed. The only recent outsider to have won was Madison Du Berlais at 25/1 but as most of us know he was a much better horse than that price suggested.
Obviously weight will be a vitally important aspect to consider but looking back at the past winners tells us that weight has only been a factor for those at the very top of the handicap. Denman of course has won race twice with 11-12 on his back but he was not quite up to that 12 months ago when he had to settle for third place behind the winner, Diamond Harry with 10-00 and second place Burton Port who was carrying 10-01. Trabolgen, winner in 2005 also had top weight, but by and large the winner is a horse carrying between 10-12 and 11-04 although this is far from an established trend.
The 11/2 favourite, Aiteen Thirtythree appears to be the best of three Nicholls entries as this is the mount chosen by stable jockey, Ruby Walsh. He will have 10-10 on his back which is certainly competitive. This is particularly so given his three length defeat by Somersby (OR 166) in the Betfair Graduation Chase at level weights at Kempton Park on the last day of October which strongly suggests that he is on a very good mark of 152.
Next in the betting with odds of 7/1 comes the David Pipe trained Great Endeavour and the Donald McCain entry Wymott. Great Endeavour of course has already claimed one big prize this month already after he won the Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham a fortnight ago. He will be looking to emulate Celestial Gold who is the only horse to have won the Paddy Power and Hennessy in the same season. That feat was achieved in 2004 by Celestial Gold, who was owned by David Johnson, trained by Martin Pipe and was ridden by Timmy Murphy virtually the same combination that are responsible for Great Endeavour. It will be a ‘tall order’ but this horse looked in magnificent condition when winning the ‘Paddy Power’ and would have to be a very strong consideration here.
Wymott, having chalked up three wins from three starts in either Beginners or Novices chases last season, had his colours lowered when pulling up in the Grade One RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. He will be making his seasonal debut on Saturday and has been well backed all week to return to winning ways. The stable is in great form, but it is interesting to note that stable jockey has been sent to Newcastle on Saturday rather than Newbury to ride Overturn in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, hence the reason why Graham Lee gets the ride.
Michel Le Bon, the second string from the Nicholls stable is an interesting runner who has been off course for two years following an injury sustained after winning a Grade 2 Novice Chase at this fixture. He was being touted at the time as a potential RSA Chase winner at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival which is presumably why the punters have been very keen to back him to win this. If he is back to his best he will come into the race on a more than decent mark but his two years of race inactivity is not particularly encouraging. He is currently an 8/1 shot to win on Saturday.
Also at 8/1 is the Ian Williams trained Wayward Prince, who finished third behind Bostons Angel in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March. A Grade one winner over hurdles and a Grade 2 Novices Chase win under his belt, this seven year old has real promise. Williams has confirmed that he is in great form at home; he believes he is on fair mark and he will be reunited with jockey, Dougie Costello who rode him to three victories last season.
All things considered there is little doubt that this latest Hennessy Gold Cup renewal will produce a cracking race, as mentioned above there are a number in with chances but sticking the ‘old neck out’ this author will plump for Great Endeavour to land a historic November double.