Over the years Tidal Bay has drawn many less than complimentary opinions concerning his level of commitment to his vocation, but in the autumn of his career, revitalised since joining Paul Nicholls, he can now demand comparison with some of the stable's best.
So the weights for the Hennessy Gold Cup suggest. Tidal Bay, second last year under top weight when conceding 6lb to the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, again heads the handicap with 11st 12lb, but on a rating 5lb higher than last year of 171. This is only 3lb shy of the figure off which Denman put up one of the great weight-carrying performances of recent years when winning his second Hennessy four years ago, the final victory of his career.
After finishing second in last year's renewal, Tidal Bay went on to gain a last-gasp triumph in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, but was unable to renew rivalry with Bobs Worth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and did not run again last season. However, the 12-year-old showed there is plenty of life left in him when he won the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby for the second autumn running earlier this month.
Even so, Tidal Bay is now 17lb higher in the handicap than when signalling his revival by winning the Bet365 Gold Cup in April last year. By contrast, Invictus, conveniently placed on the minimum weight of 10st, is 5lb lower than when last seen, giving a three-length beating to a certain Bobs Worth, who was conceding 3lb, at Ascot in February last year. Bookmakers have noted the discrepancy and the Alan King-trained seven-year-old is a best-priced 8-1 favourite for the contest at Newbury on 30 November.
King saddled two more potentially smart novice chase recruits to win at Exeter in Smad Place – on the podium in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for the last two seasons and atoning for previous a last-fence fall which cost him victory at Huntingdon – and Valdez, to continue the stable's recent run of success. King also won the feature handicap chase at Bangor with Midnight Appeal.