Hennessy Gold Cup: Runner-by-runner
Check out our A-Z guide to Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup, featuring Native River, Blaklion and last year's winner Smad Place.
Native River is taken to win the Hennessy Gold Cup
The Hennessy Gold Cup is without question one of the most competitive and informative staying chases of the entire jumps season and has been won by some of the greatest names in the game.
Mandarin, Arkle and Denman are the only three horses to have won the race more than once, while Mill House, Burrough Hill Lad, Bregawn and One Man also feature on an illustrious roll of honour.
In recent season Bobs Worth took top spot at Newbury before going on to taste Cheltenham Gold Cup glory later in the season, while 2014 hero Many Clouds remains the only horse to have won both the Hennessy and Grand National.
This year's contest is seemingly as packed with proven quality and unrealised potential as ever and last year's brilliant winner Smad Place returns under the burden of top weight.
He has to contend with a whole host of promising second-season chasers including RSA Chase star Blaklion as well as fellow Cheltenham Festival winner Un Temps Pour Tout and exhilarating Aintree scorer Native River.
It is Colin Tizzard's Native River that tops the betting at 11/2 with Sky Bet, while others towards the head of the market are Vyta Du Roc, Henri Parry Morgan and 2015 fifth Saphir Du Rheu.
Here we provide a full rundown of the final field of 20…
Last year's brilliant winner returns to try and retain his title off an 11lb higher mark and he will do so on the back of a perfectly acceptable reappearance run over an inadequate trip at Aintree. Should come on for that run, but this will be tough off a mark of 166 and he could face fierce competition for the lead.
Un Temps Pour Tout
A Grade One winner over hurdles, Un Temps Pour Tout always looked like he'd make a better chaser but took time to find his feet over fences before it all clicked in his first handicap chase over three miles at the Cheltenham Festival. How's about that? Is 10lb higher now, but has the scope to improve again and made a fine reappearance when winning over hurdles at Aintree. Has it all to do against Native River on these terms on a couple of pieces of form, however.
At his very best Holywell would be interesting off 156. He beat Don Cossack 10 lengths in a Grade One in his prime and was rated 163 at one point over fences. However, he really struggled last season, only coming to life at the Cheltenham Festival (again) where he was second to Un Temps Pour Tout. Gets a 7lb pull with that rival for seven lengths, but hurdles reappearance was awful and plenty of guesswork involved with him on ground that may be too soft anyway.
One of last year's top novices who gave Un Temps Pour Tout 7lb and a good beating at this meeting last season. Showed a lack of pace when beaten at Kempton and Wetherby in the middle part of the campaign but improved again in the spring, finishing second to Minella Rocco in the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival before winning the Grade One Mildmay at Aintree in front of Henri Parry Morgan, Blaklion and Un Temps Pour Tout again. Highly promising reappearance over hurdles at Wetherby and the one they all have to beat.
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Another top novice from last season, the highlight of which was his RSA Chase win at the Cheltenham Festival. Was far too good for Native River off level weights in the heavy ground at Wetherby, but Colin Tizzard's horse reversed that form emphatically at Aintree in the Mildmay. Ran a sound enough race in the Charlie Hall on his return, shaping as if he'll come on for the run.
Houblon Des Obeaux
Sixth, second and ninth in this race the last three years, and ended a long losing run when beating The Giant Bolster by 28 lengths at this track in February. Usually goes well fresh and this is the lowest mark he's run off in a Hennessy, but it would be a surprise if there wasn't something better handicapped than him in this renewal.
Saphir Du Rheu
Chopped and changed between hurdles and fences but chasing always looked likely to be his game and looked high-class prospect when winning the Grade One Mildmay by 15 lengths at Aintree last year. Thrashed The Young Master at Carlisle on his seasonal reappearance last campaign and was sent off the 9/2 favourite for this race on the back of that, running quite well in fifth off a mark of 163. 10lb lower now having been put in his place by Thistlecrack and Cue Card since, but ran an encouraging race with this contest in mind last time at Ascot.
Has form with several of these having beaten Un Temps Pour Tout at Cheltenham in November before finishing fourth behind Blaklion at the same track the following month. Was nearly 14 lengths behind Native River in the four-miler but advertised that form with a victory in the Scottish National on his next start where he beat Vyta Du Roc by nearly 10 lengths. Races on 7lb worse times with that rival after he went up 5lb for that Ayr win.
Henri Parry Morgan
Progressed well through novice handicaps last season, winning easily at Chepstow and Uttoxeter before running a great race when upped in class in the Mildmay, splitting Native River and Blaklion and finishing further ahead of Un Temps Pour Tout. Best off at the weights here out of that quartet but has to find three lengths with Native River for a 5lb pull. That's not insurmountable, but he has unseated twice over fences and there will be no room for error here.
Won this race in 2013 off 3lb lower mark when he'd had the benefit of a run. Lightly raced since after battling a few issues and was pulled up when running in this race first time out last campaign. Showed the ability was still there when running out a wide-margin winner of a three-runner race at Kempton in January but was well beaten in the Grand National when last seen.
Fascinating runner for Nick Williams who won this race with Diamond Harry back in 2010. Rated 153 at his best over hurdles after winning the 'Fixed Brush' at Haydock in 2014, and has run respectably in a handful of Grade One hurdles since, notably at Auteuil. Had just the two starts over fences, winning easily at Uttoxeter before being pulled up in a good novice event at Cheltenham behind Seeyouatmidnight. An opening fencing mark of 149 looks steep enough, though, for one so inexperienced.
A grand old campaigner for the Twiston-Davies clan and fairly handicapped on several pieces of form, but yet to prove he stays this far. Will need to step up massively on his veterans' chase form from this season and highly likely he'll be left toiling in the straight if not before.
Placed in two Hennessys off marks of 139 and 145, so not out of this again from an each-way perspective off 149. Ran a sound race at Wetherby last year before coming here and had the same preparation again, running even better in Yorkshire this time around when a close second behind Indian Stream.
Sky Bet Chase second was the pick of his form in his first season over fences and it was no coincidence that came on good ground. Had a breathing operation in the summer and improved again when showing his battling qualities to see off Keltus at Cheltenham on his reappearance, again on good ground. Up 8lb for that and would probably need the ground to dry up significantly to be at his best.
Not seen since finishing midfield in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April. Is pretty versatile ground-wise but could've probably done with a bit more juice in the turf than he had that day, as he was a good winner at the same track in December on good to soft conditions. That victory came off a mark just 2lb lower than he races off on Saturday and he goes well fresh, so he's far from out of this. Stays further, so if they go off fast it could play into the hands of his creepy style.
Pulled up in three good chases at the start of the year but bounced back to form with the hood removed when second at Punchestown at the end of April. Not seen since and can go well fresh, but was bumped up 8lb for that second in Ireland and he has struggled off slightly lower marks than this on enough occasions.
Impressive 13-length winner of a novices' handicap chase here last season and then followed up by beating Onenightinvienna off level weights at Kempton. Not quite up to the task in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham when last seen but he wasn't disgraced having been hampered at a crucial stage and that race has produced some good subsequent winners. Still has the potential to progress past his current mark of 146, though obvious this is a big ask first time back after 256 days off.
Vyta Du Roc
Good novice hurdler who was second in the Challow here before finishing fourth in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival behind Windsor Park, a last-hurdle error probably costing him second. Chased home Thistlecrack in the Sefton stepped up in trip before a good novice chasing campaign last year, the highlight being that Reynoldstown win. Ran just okay in the RSA behind Blaklion and the Scottish National afterwards, and his supporters will be hoping his hurdles spin behind Un Temps Pour Tout at Aintree was purely a 'getting-fit' exercise.
Well beaten on Ascot reappearance but entitled to leave that effort well behind and he's slipped to an attractive mark based on his form from a couple of years ago. Question marks over whether he retains that kind of ability but unlikely he's over the hill at the age of nine and clearly he's another lurking near the foot of the weights to consider with some respect.
One of two runners for JP McManus and seemingly the second-string based purely on jockey bookings. Caught the eye with a fair fifth in the first-time blinkers at Cheltenham last month and it's no surprise to see the headgear retained. From a handicapping point of view he's only 1lb higher than when a good second to Sausalito Sunrise last November so certainly not out of it and his stamina is assured.
VERDICT: This often goes to the best-handicapped novice chaser from the previous season and last campaign's generation are well represented by the RSA winner, Mildmay winner, and a host of horses whose form ties in with those races. Henri Parry Morgan could be the one if his jumping holds up, but he still has three lengths to find with NATIVE RIVER on their Aintree form and a 5lb pull might not be enough. The Colin Tizzard stable is in great form and the selection's return at Wetherby was hugely eyecatching with this race in mind. He has course form, the edge over plenty of his market rivals on last year's evidence, he jumps well, stays well and could be very well handicapped judging by that Aintree win. The cheekpieces have made a difference to him. Last year's winner Smad Place is likely to be up there for a long way again, while Saphir Du Rheu could improve on his fifth position from last year off 10lb lower. Aubusson is lightly raced over fences and could be anything, while Carole's Destrier is well suited by a stern test of stamina – he could outrun his huge odds.
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