Tizzard can’t split Hennessy duo
The view from connections ahead of Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
Native River: One of two Colin Tizzard runners in the Hennessy
Colin Tizzard feels there is little to choose between Native River and Theatre Guide as they line up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.
Native River, who heads the ante-post market, won the Grade One Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree in the spring and finished a satisfactory second over hurdles at Wetherby on his return last month.
Theatre Guide, who also finished second on his seasonal bow, has been placed in the race twice before and is getting 6lb from his stablemate having had a wind operation in the summer.
"I thought Theatre Guide ran a lovely prep race for this at Wetherby over a trip short of his best," said Tizzard.
"He had a wind op in the summer and is right on the top of his game at the moment. I'd have said there wouldn't be much at all between them on the terms they are meeting. This looks a beautiful race for Native River, definitely the right spot. He's a Grade One-winning, second-season novice and he ran a lovely race over hurdles first time out. Of course it will be ultra-competitive, it always is, but I'd like to think they are both going there with excellent chances."
Champion jockey Richard Johnson is still looking for his first win in the race but feels Native River has the right profile for a race of this magnitude.
Johnson said: "In the nicest way, he's one-paced and he keeps galloping – he jumps and gallops, and that's his forte.
"At Aintree that's what he showed, and I thought he ran a really nice race over hurdles at Wetherby at the start of the season. That was definitely the best hurdle run of his life and he's only six, you forget that.
"There's every chance he's probably improved a bit over the summer and Colin's horses couldn't be in better form, so you go there with all the positives.
"I think at Wetherby last year when he finished third to Blaklion – so it wasn't a bad race – they thought he didn't enjoy it as much as he enjoys decent ground, so ideally good to soft rather than soft would be better.
"But whatever the ground is, with the rain we've had it's going to be hard work and a big field is always a true-run race."
Of the dangers, he added: "Un Temps Pour Tout won the French Champion Hurdle and the three-mile handicap at Cheltenham and is obviously a very high-class horse. He's very talented and probably the one I'd be most wary of."
"I certainly wouldn't swap him for anything. You want to go back and watching him flying up the Cheltenham hill over three-one, he was certainly galloping all the way to the line. I'm looking forward to it."
Tom Scudamore on Un Temps Pour Tout
Tom Scudamore partners Un Temps Pour Tout and shares Johnson's optimism, although he was no match for Native River at Aintree off level weights last season and must concede 3lb this time.
"I certainly wouldn't swap him for anything," said Scudamore.
"You want to go back and watching him flying up the Cheltenham hill over three-one, he was certainly galloping all the way to the line. He's run well around Newbury before and I'm looking forward to it.
"You only have to look through the past winners to see they can go on to be Gold Cup horses and that's what you need.
"He has to improve again – the handicapper isn't taking any chances off a very high mark but we've got to go there and prove the handicapper right."
Smad Place's victory 12 months ago was one of the highlights of the season when he jumped for fun to win by 12 lengths, but he faces a tougher task off an 11lb higher mark this time.
"It's not going to be easy (off top weight), but he carried 11st 8lb last year," said trainer Alan King.
"It's been his target all the way through and we're happy with him, but I'm under no illusions as it's a tough task.
"There's nowhere else to go, really. He'll be his usual, competitive self, and the ground is sure to be on the slow side, which will suit us. He'll run his race – whether that's good enough to win, I don't know. We're happy with him, anyway."Several second-season chasers have won the Hennessy after having claimed the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and Blaklion tries to add his name to that list.Nigel Twiston-Davies, who sent out King's Road to victory in 2000, said: "Blaklion has improved for the run at Wetherby (fourth in the Charlie Hall Chase) and is in very good heart."He has got the right sort of profile for this because he is a second-season novice. He will like the softer ground and longer trip, so it all looks good for him. I am quite bullish about it."Henri Parry Morgan made giant strides last season, finishing second to Native River at Aintree before falling in the bet365 Gold Cup when still going well."Henri is in great form," said trainer Peter Bowen."He had a racecourse gallop two weeks ago at Ffos Las. I worked him last weekend and he worked amazingly well and hopefully everything will be all right for him."He had a dirty scope, which was why he missed a race at Carlisle, but hopefully the gallop has put him right."He worked over two miles at home and scoped clean afterwards, everything is fine and he's in good form."I was gutted when he fell at Sandown as I don't think anything was travelling better than he was. I know it was a long way out, but he was going so well."He's strengthened up a hell of a lot over the summer."Paul Nicholls struck in the race as a jockey in consecutive years on Playschool and Broadheath and has already won it three times as a trainer thanks to Denman (twice) and Strong Flow.He runs Saphir Du Rheu, who was the beaten favourite last year, and the Scottish National winner Vicente."He (Vicente) might have only gone up 5lb for winning the Scottish National, but he was all out to win. I think giving horses who win 5lb is fair enough, it gives them a chance to win again," said Nicholls."He'd dropped a few pounds and I think he's on a high enough mark for what he's achieved, but if he's improved he's a Scottish National winner who could run really tidy."Andy Stewart owns Saphir Du Rheu and has mixed feelings about the race."I've had My Will come second in it and Big Buck's was coming to win when he unseated Sam Thomas. Obviously you can interpret that as good luck as he might not have gone back hurdling and did what he did," said Stewart."When Saphir Du Rheu ran at Ascot he looked fat, but I've seen him since with Nick Scholfield schooling and he's not fat now."We're going there optimistic, he's still only seven and has 10lb less than last year when he was only six. I can't wait for it."Nicky Henderson also has three wins to his name with Trabolgan, Bobs Worth and Triolo D'Alene, who is back again along with stablemates Vyta Du Roc and Hadrian's Approach."Triolo D'Alene does like good ground. He's in excellent form," said Henderson."Vyta Du Roc is very ready as well. They both had a gallop at Newbury last week and both worked on the grass (on Monday)."Hadrian's has also been given a chance by the handicapper."Henderson's former assistant Ben Pauling runs Local Show."He is probably best going right-handed, but he has been schooling very well," said Pauling."I always think the Hennessy is won by a very progressive horse and, considering he improved the best part of two stone last season, I just wonder how much more improvement is there."