Saphir can hit Hennessy target

Ian Ogg analyses the last 10 renewals of Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and picks out the key statistics.

Saphir Du Rheu can make it second time lucky in the Hennessy

The Hennessy Gold Cup is renowned as being a race for second season chasers but that hasn't really been borne out in the last decade as they've accounted for just half of the winners.

They do remain the first port of call but Denman, Madison Du Berlais and Carruthers were all more experienced while Smad Place and Triolo d'Alene were in their third season over fences.

One thing that the first four of those winners had in common was that they had all contested the Hennessy before and that is well worth bearing in mind as you work your way through this year's line-up.

However, Denman is the only winner in this period aged older than eight so it looks well worth taking on last year's winner Smad Place, 2014 runner-up Houblon Des Obeaux and a few more besides on account of their age.

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There is little to get excited about in terms of weight or official ratings but form in graded chases is desirable and applying that statistic reduces the field to just eight runners.

The market has got this right more often than not and Coologue, second in a Grade Two at Doncaster, looks up against it having been raised 8lbs for winning at Cheltenham on his seasonal reappearance, his first start since a summer wind operation.

The market has also overlooked the claims of Scottish National winner Vicente who appears to have his work cut out at the weights to reverse Cheltenham Festival form with Native River while he was also a long way behind RSA Chase winner Blaklion in December.

Native River was also handed a heavy defeat by Blaklion last season and he was behind him when they met in the Challow Novices' Hurdle at this track in 2014 but Colin Tizzard's runner took his form to a new level once fitted with cheekpieces, gaining revenge in the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree (where Henri Parry Morgan and Un Temps Pour Tout were second and fourth) and he warmed up for this race with an eyecatching run over hurdles.

Vyta Du Roc was fifth in both the RSA Chase and Scottish National but the 2014 Challow Novices' Hurdle second is 7lbs better off with Vicente and 11lbs better off with Blaklion. Trainer Nicky Henderson has a good record in the race and he merits respect from his low weight.

Preference is for Saphir Du Rheu who could only finish fifth as the 9/2 favourite (beaten 22 lengths) 12 months ago but who has been the subject of encouraging vibes this summer.

His reappearance third at Ascot didn't satisfy everyone but it appeared to be a perfectly satisfactory prep run to my eyes and he races from a rating that's fully 10lbs lower than in 2015. He's twice the price at the time of writing too and this talented seven-year-old rates an excellent bet to provide Paul Nicholls with his first victory in the race since Denman in 2009.

  • Winners have been aged six (2), seven (5), eight (2) and nine.
  • Winners have carried between 10-0 and 11-12 with two defying top-weight.
  • Winners have been rated between 145 and 174 with nine between 145 and 161.
  • Winners have been priced between 11/4 and 25/1 with two favourites successful.
  • Seven winners finished in the first three on their preceding start with two of the exceptions failing to complete.
  • Four winners contested the previous season's RSA Chase where their form figures were PU, 1, 1, BD.
  • The last nine winners had won or been placed in a chase at Grade Three level or above.
  • Six winners had won a Grade One or Two contest over hurdles.
  • Eight winners had run no more than 12 times in chases. Five had won at least half their starts, the exceptions were 3/9, 5/11 and 3/7.
  • All of the winners had finished first or second over three miles.
  • Seven of the eight winners to have previously run at Newbury had been successful.
  • Five winners were in their first or second season over fences.

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