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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss