James Boyle’s Ante-Post Value – The Hennessy Gold Cup
Time to take a look at the Hennessy Gold Cup, run over the extended 3m 2f at Newbury. As with all of these valuable handicaps, finding the winner is none too easy but first things first, Djakadam looks overly short at the head of the market. Ante-Post punters seem to be keen on getting stuck into the Willie Mullins animal as he’s a best-priced 9/2 shot now – was over twice that not long ago.
It’s easy to see the angle. He is, after all, a 5-year-old with just three chasing outings under his belt and a rating of 142, one that could be significantly higher had he managed to complete when last seen in the JLT Novices’ at the Cheltenham festival in March. There, he fell with four fences to go in a race won by Taquin Du Seuil and had he jumped it properly, he could have hit the frame.
There is undoubtedly a lot of potential in place and it’s interesting to see connections stepping him up so dramatically in trip, something that shouldn’t be an issue on breeding. The furthest he has gone so far is 2m 5f in a four-runner race, so there is an element of the unknown and given the quotes available at the moment, there’s not a chance I can play ball despite his claims being solid.
A battle for second favouritism in the market looks likely and for now Smad Place just about shades it at around 7/1. Unlike Djakadam, he has at least proven his stamina for 3-miles and looks every inch an ideal candidate to get this distance without much trouble. When last seen, he finished a neck second behind O’Faolains Boy in the RSA Chase at the festival and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the form given what some of the beaten horses have done since. The only real issue is that he has to carry 11st 10lbs around in such a competitive affair, with his mark shooting up 8lbs for his festival exploits, and that could be difficult in what is certain to be a true test of stamina. It’s just a bit off-putting.
Fingal Bay has a similarly decent lump of weight on his back (11st 8lbs) and as far as I’m concerned, still has plenty to prove as a chaser. On the best of his hurdling form, which included a mammoth effort to win the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, he’s clearly a major player and all hints indicate that he’ll stay this far, but better ground would be preferred in an ideal world and this is a tough race in which to make his chasing return two years since last seen in the code. With Philip Hobbs’ yard firing on all cylinders and the horse having an obviously attractive profile from a simplistic point of view (unexposed, etc, etc), he’ll have his supporters but at a single-figured price (best-priced 8/1) he wouldn’t be my shout.
Many Clouds doesn’t strike me as being classy enough to win off his mark, whilst Rocky Creek would prefer better ground I reckon, so they’re not for me at 8/1 & 10/1 respectively. Instead, I’m going to give a tentative nod of approval to one from the Horses To Follow list – MERRY KING (14/1). He’s not the biggest horse in the world, isn’t open to an ocean of improvement, nor is he the most straight-forward, but on his day he can run to a fair figure and off a mark of 138 – 2lbs lower than when fifth in this contest last year – the current price looks reasonable for an each-way play. On some of his best form, he’d be capable of hitting one of the places at worst and in what looks a wide-open renewal to my wonky eye, winning it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility either. McCoy being on board again is an obvious positive and if cheekpieces have the desired effect, he’ll be in there pitching.
Selection for the Hennessy Gold Cup (Saturday, 29th November; 3:00 Newbury):
Merry King – 1pt each-way at 14/1 with four places, available generally.
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