Naps king makes his selection for the Hennessy
November into December is a great time of the season for National Hunt fans with some fantastic racing of us as long as the low lying sun doesn’t play too much havoc!
The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 26th has always been a favourite big race of mine both as a punting medium and as a race to take forward through the whole national hunt season.
It has a huge effect on the staying chasing decision further down the line whether it is the Cheltenham Gold Cup or indeed the Aintree Grand National.
My biggest punting triumph came in 2012 when I backed BobsWorth at 33/1 to win both the Newbury contest and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
When he was at the top of the hill at Cheltenham and had to side step Silviniaco Conti I thought his chance of gone, but surge between the home bend and the last fence was truly incredible. I was working for Timeform Radio at the Festival at the time and had to go on air and give the S.P’s after the race and I was physically trembling and only just got the words out.
Anyway enough of fond memories,the Hennessy has always been a kind race to second season, unexposed chasers and there are several runners that fall firmly into that category this year.
However, there was a stayer that fitted snugly into that profile last year, but didn’t fulfil the promise of his novice season.
Cue Saphir Du Rheu trained by Paul Nicholls. Following a brilliant success in the 2015 Colin Parker Memorial at Carlisle he was sent off the 9/2 favourite at Newbury but after racing prominently he nearly took the 15th fence by the roots and weakened to finish 22 lengths off Smad Place in fifth spot.
His subsequent runs in the highest class proved he wasn’t up to championship status and Nicholls openly admits he may have overestimated him.
However, the seven-year-old is now a full 10lbs lower than last year and started off the season with a cracking staying on third in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot, giving lumps of weight away to an unexposed younger horse.
That run was badly needed as he blew like a hurricane in the unsaddling enclosure and he really shouldn’t be a double figure price, yet 10/1 is still readily available.
Market leader Native River ran a nice season opener atWetherby and he saw off fellow second season chaser Un Temps Pour Tout in a grade two at the track last year and at the weights there should be little between them this year; both need serious consideration.
Of the remainder,I think Outlander has been crying out for three miles and he would be the other each-way alternative should he line-up.
My early thoughts on the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day are shaped by events set to take place in the next few weeks. Will Thistlecrack jump better at Newbury and get a chance to run at Kempton? Is Cue Card on the downgrade or will the Betfair Chase reverse that Wetherby thought?
Whatever the answer to those two questions Valseur Lido is one to keep onside following his smooth Down Royal success and he is in my mind simply a late bloomer. Even if those two rivals line up against him at Christmas I feel he would have more than a fighting chance of matching them with the distinct possibility of more improvement to come.
Saphir Du Rheu