Merry King set to bring Hennessy Gold Cup cheer

 

A roll call of the early winners of the Hennessy Gold Cup reads like a Who’s Who of steeplechasing legends: Mandarin, Taxidermist, Stalbridge Colonist, Mill House and, of course, Arkle, who twice made light of 12st 7lb in the mid-Sixties.

And still, even with valuable alternative targets in the autumn programme, this is the race for rising staying chasers. Last year’s winner, Bobs Worth, went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, after proving a leading novice the previous season.

More often than not these days, the Hennessy is won by a young horse on the up; all but four of this afternoon’s 21 runners at Newbury are either six- or seven-year-olds and the vast majority of them are second-season chasers.

The trend is bucked occasionally – in recent years by the tank that was Denman and by the tough-as-old-boots Carruthers – providing hope to the small band of oldies, which includes the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, who his trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies, insists is still a long way from requiring a bus pass, though rising 13.

Lord Windermere, the winner of last season’s RSA Chase at Cheltenham, would appear to boast a perfect profile. Jim Culloty, his trainer, who is most famous for riding Best Mate to three Gold Cup triumphs, is extremely bullish about his chances and no less confident after an enforced late jockey change – Dougie Costello deputises for Robbie McNamara, who broke a collarbone yesterday morning.

But while the statistic that no Irish-trained horse has won the Hennessy for 33 years might have limited relevance, the ratings-based observation that the most recent RSA Chase was slightly substandard does carry weight.

Rocky Creek also appears to fit the Hennessy bill and is understandably among the market leaders in what is always a furious betting heat. With one eye already on this race, his trainer, Paul Nicholls, opted to swerve Cheltenham last March and that resistance to temptation might now be rewarded.

But better value may lie further down the handicap in Merry King (3.00 Newbury), who will be attempting to give trainer Jonjo O’Neill and rider Richie McLernon their second major November prize following the success of Johns Spirit in the Paddy Power Chase.

Merry King is a stamina-laden version of Johns Spirit, now ready to show what he is really made of after displaying abundant promise on carefully chosen missions. Match-fit following an encouraging return at Ascot a month ago, he is set for his breakthrough into the big time.

Last year’s top staying novice hurdler, At Fishers Cross (2.25 Newbury), is generally regarded as heir apparent to the sidelined Big Buck’s, but we will know how serious that challenge is after he has taken on a small but select field in the Long Distance Hurdle.

Mischievous Milly (1.50 Newbury) showed enough on her recent return to action to suggest she will be hard to beat in the opener, while the unexposed Filbert (3.35 Newbury) will also be sharper for his comeback outing at Ascot earlier this month and is preferred to Tetlami in the two-mile handicap chase.

My Tent Or Yours (2.05 Newcastle) and Tony McCoy are the star attractions at Gosforth Park and nothing less than a victory in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle will satisfy connections with eyes already fixed on the Champion Hurdle in March.

Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old will not be much of a price, but a few quid on Sue Smith’s progressive chaser, Vintage Star (2.40 Newcastle) in the Rehearsal Chase should net a decent return.

For more information about horseracing, visit  Lovetheraces.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - South West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent