Time to take the Rocky road
The big Saturday races are coming thick and fast at the moment as this weekend we have the Hennessy Gold Cup and the StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle to look forward to.
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Starting with the Hennessy up at Newbury, this was a race that unfortunately eluded me during my riding days but it was always a fascinating affair being a handicap that pits some of the best staying chasers against some of the lesser lights - meaning the contest really is there for the taking for any of the runners.
Greats like Arkle, One Man, Denman and, of course, last season's Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth have graced the roll of honour over the years so it's also a race steeped in history and one all the top yards love to win.
This year's renewal sees the Alan King-trained Invictus as favourite in many bookmakers' markets at this stage of the week as the yard look for their first win in the race.
This seven year-old has not been out for 651 days having had a number of issues, but if he returns to anywhere near the form that saw him beat Bobs Worth by three lengths last time out at Ascot then he's certainly the one to beat - a lot will depend on his fitness and just how his setbacks have impacted on him, but he's got age on his side so we'll have to see.
The Pipe yard is in cracking form of late and they will be looking for their fifth win in the race. Our Father won first time out last season, but rather lost his way thereafter. The yard have taken their time with him and with just 9 career runs then I'm sure there is plenty more to come from him - he's interesting in my eyes.
Former Champion trainer Paul Nicholls took the race twice with Denman and also with Strong Flow back in 2003, so knows what it takes to get one ready. He's another trainer that has some decent entries with Rocky Creek a big player for the Ditcheat team.
ROCKY CREEK is reportedly in good order and looks a likely winner. He was last seen running third at Aintree in the Mildmay Novices' Chase, but is yet to finish out of the first three in his five chase starts and for e/w players then he looks a cracking option. He's also got good form in soft conditions and is still improving in my view.
Of the rest, Nicky Henderson will be hoping to follow-up his win in the race 12 months ago - this time with Hadrian's Approach. He'll come here fitter than most having been second last time out at Kempton, and has run well here at Newbury over fences in the past - another that's sure to make his presence felt on Saturday.
I've listed some key trends and stats below, and being a handicap then there are some really good standout stats to apply to the race.
The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is the other big race this Saturday up at Newcastle and this will give us a few more clues ahead of the Champion Hurdle.
AP McCoy will more than likely be heading to Gosforth Park to ride the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours, who was runner-up in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the festival.
He's certainly the one to beat based on that form and the ratings, but will certainly have a stern test with Melodic Rendezvous entered in the race too.
Jeremy Scott's 7 year-old was a very impressive winner at Wincanton last time, but the form of that win took a slight knock last week with the runner-up Far West flopping up at Haydock, so the safest option, and the fact McCoy will likely be heading to Newcastle, suggests MY TENT OR YOURS is the call.
Hennessy Gold Cup Trends
10/11 - Won a chase race over at least 3m previously
10/11 - Raced at Newbury previously (6 had won over fences there)
10/11 - Won by a horse aged 8 or younger
9/11 - Won a Grade 3 or better class chase race previously
9/11 - Won between 2-5 previous races over fences before
9/11 - SP'd 10/1 or shorter in the market
8/11 - Raced at either Aintree (2) or Cheltenham (6) last time out
8/11 - Carried 10-13 or more in weight
8/11 - Placed in the first 3 last time out
8/11 - Won by a horse aged either 6 or 7 years-old
8/11 - Winning distance - 2 ½ lengths or more
7/11 - Rated between 140 and 151
6/11 - Won by an Irish-bred horse
6/11 - Won their last race
5/11 - Favourites unplaced
5/11 - Had a previous run that season
4/11 - Winning favourites (1 joint)
3/11 - Trained by the Paul Nicholls yard
2/11 - Trained by the Pipe stable
2/11 - Ridden by Ruby Walsh
The average winning SP in the last 11 runnings is 17/2 Since 1968 there has only been one winner aged in double-figures (1981 Diamond Edge, 10) Since 1990 (23 runnings) there have been 12 winners (50%) aged 7 years-old
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