The Hennessy Gold Cup is a race that can be won by a proper horse carrying a light weight. In retrospect One Man, for instance, was probably a contender for the bet of the century off 10st, and neither Teeton Mill nor Celestial Gold was badly treated with 10st 5lb. One of those down at the base of the handicap this year is Bible Lord, who will carry the minimum burden.
"It's a big enough ask for him," said trainer Andy Turnell yesterday, "perhaps I'd rather he had a bit more experience; you could say there's a case for waiting a year with him. But let's put it this way. If he's the horse I hope he is, and providing he goes the right way, he'll never get in a race like this off 10 stone again."
Bible Lord, at around 20-1 in the bookmakers' lists, is a six-year-old with a mere five runs over fences under his considerable girth. Ten of his age have triumphed, including three of the last four winners, Strong Flow in 2003, Celestial Gold a year later and State Of Play 12 month ago.
Though the chestnut has not yet been highly tried, he has made eyecatching progress through the ranks and in his first victory, in a novice chase at Kempton in March, he beat Il Duce, who very nearly won the Paddy Power Gold Cup 11 days ago, by an eased-down 15 lengths. "The form of his novice races has worked out well," said Turnell.
Bible Lord, a strapping individual, blew the cobwebs away with a fourth place at Bangor two weeks ago, running well before ring-rustiness kicked in.
"I was particularly pleased with the way he jumped that day," said Turnell. "In the past he had been a bit novicey, but it seems the penny has dropped. He looked an old head on young shoulders.
"My biggest worry is that it took him two runs to come to himself last year; he is a big rangy horse. But with the ground the way it has been – he needs cut – I just haven't been able to get him out twice."
Turnell, based at Broad Hinton, near Swindon, already has two Hennessy Gold Cups on his CV, as a jockey in 1975 on April Seventh and as a trainer in 1993 with Cogent. The last-named was ridden by little-known claimer Daniel Fortt and on Saturday will again be entrusted to a name hardly in the first flight of fashion. Mark Grant has not ridden a winner since May, but has ridden Bible Lord in all his five outings over fences. "We're sticking with him," said Turnell. "He knows the horse and can do the weight."
Irish-bred Bible Lord, by Mister Lord, was sold for small money as a foal, but proved rather dearer when he changed hands for the second time, as four-length winner of a point-to-point at Lismore, Co Waterford, in February last year.
"He wasn't cheap," admitted Turnell, "but I know the family well and they are real staying chasing types."
With a safety limit of 24 on the three-and-a-quarter mile Newbury showpiece Bible Lord, who carries the colours of Scottish businessman Martin Tedham, needs six horses above him in the handicap to defect to be guaranteed a run. Two of the Irish contingent were ruled out yesterday, including one of the market leaders, Mossbank.
Highly-regarded by his trainer Michael Hourigan, he is to wait for the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas. His compatriot French Accordion, from the Paul Nolan yard, will tackle the Drinmore Novices' Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
Donald McCain's charge Idle Talk, runner-up to New Alco at Carlisle two weeks ago, is likely to miss the race in favour of the Welsh National later in the month but veteran Sir Rembrandt, who might have gone straight to the Chepstow feature after his recent success at Cheltenham, was confirmed a Hennessy runner by trainer Victor Dartnall. New Alco himself was reported yesterday in rude health ahead of Saturday's fray after his final prep spin yesterday morning. "He came through with flying colours and we're delighted with him," said his trainer Ferdy Murphy.
The French-bred six-year-old is vying for second favouritism behind Denman with the David Pipe-trained Abragante, for whom Davy Russell was booked yesterday as a replacement for suspended Timmy Murphy.
"He's in the same sort of mould as Timmy and will suit the horse," said owner David Johnson.Reuse content