Katenko was too unfit to run in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after showing form that indicated he could compete at the highest level and can gain some compensation by winning the Hennessey Gold Cup on Saturday. In the absence of The New One My Tent Or Yours is the odds on favourite to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle but Cotton Mill makes more appeal to make the payout places.
After the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Betfair Chases the next big jumps race of the season is Hennessey, a handicap run over three miles two furlongs at Newbury. The race is one of the most iconic of the season as it represents the longest sponsorship association in British racing. On the same day Newcastle stages the Fighting Fifth, the most prestigious hurdle race at the track and often a good trail for the Champion Hurdle.
In the past the Hennessey has been very informative in the context of the other major staying chases of the season. A year ago Bobs Worth won the race and went to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. Tidal Bay was second and then won a Grade 1 chase in Ireland next time out.
The race also has a history of good performances from second season chasers as they step into handicap company for the first time. Denman won the race twice and that horse also won a Gold Cup. Weight does not seem to stop the best horses and this year’s renewal looks as competitive as ever.
Invictus is the talking horse of the race and its position in the betting is based on one run almost two years ago. Invictus beat Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti without receiving any weight and that run makes him clear on the ratings. However, the Hennessey is a difficult race to win and even more so with a horse that has not run since the start of 2012.
Alan King trains Invictus and he announced this week that the horse will be ridden by Robert Thornton who now shares rides for the stable with Wayne Hutchison. The latter will be at Newcastle to ride Grumeti in the feature race. The trainer reports that Invictus has schooled well over fences and expects some improvement despite the fact that he has not run for a while.
Rocky Creek has the profile of horses that have figured in the race in the past being a novice last season. The horse is some way behind the leading novice chaser Dynaste but that animal proved in the Betfair Chase to be close to the highest level amongst the seasoned chasers. Rocky Creek’s trainer, Paul Nichols, won the Hennessey twice with Denman so knows how to prepare a horse for the race.
Lord Windermere won the RSA Chase last season, the leading staying race of the season for inexperienced chasers. In retrospect the race was devalued as Dynaste did not run and on reflection given luck in running that horse may well have beaten Lord Windermere at Cheltenham. Even so the horse has a weight that makes him competive at handicap level.
Lord Windermere is Irish trained so if winning will become the first Irish winner of the race for 33 years and only the second since Arkle in 1965. The trainer has reported that the horse has developed physically over the summer and how he performs will be informative in the context of last season’s novice chase form.
Imperial Commander will be retired after the race win, lose or draw. The horse is proven at the highest level having won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010. He looked back to his best at times last season but a disappointing run in the Grand National suggested he is not capable of carrying a big weight in a competitive handicap.
My Tent Or Yours is a best priced 4/5 to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. The horse is trained by Nicky Henderson and he is just about the best contemporary trainer in preparing animals in his care for the Cheltenham Festival. He is as low as 1/6 to win the trainer’s championship again and even such a low price seems about right when you consider the horses housed in his stable.
The majestic Sprinter Sacre could go the season unbeaten in the two mile chase division while Bobs Worth is still a leading contender for another Gold Cup despite a disappointing run at Haydock last weekend. Long Run is unlikely to win another King George or Gold Cup but an entry will be made for the Grand National, a race Henderson has never won.
My Tent Or Yours was one of the best novice hurdlers last season. Champagne Fever was the only horse too good for him at Cheltenham and he followed up with an easy win at Aintree though the race was weak and only attracted a handful of runners. However, My Tent Or Yours has a good profile for a Champion Hurdle winner and preparation for that race begins at Newcastle on Saturday.
After Melodic Rendezvous won the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January over two miles he became a leading contender for the top races for novices over the remainder of the season. An impressive run at Cheltenham over two miles one furlong also suggested an animal with more than average ability. The horse’s potential was then not tested at the very highest level as injury prevented a run at the Cheltenham Festival.
If the chase route is taken the championship two mile races for novices look realistic targets but even over the smaller obstacles the horse could figure in some significant hurdle races this season. Melodic Rendezvous won impressively at Wincanton in its first run of the season but the form was not boosted when Far West ran poorly at Haydock on Betfair Chase day.
Of more interest and at bigger odds is Cotton Mill. The horse seemed to lose its form at the end of last season and ran particularly poorly at Aintree in April. However, this is contender with the form in the book to suggest he was one of the best novices of his generation. He was going well when unseating in a novice race at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival won by Simonsig and a performance at that level of form can see Cotton Mill being placed at rewarding odds. The win double with Katenko pays over 300/1 and even the place element is about 16/1.