Bobs Worth following in Hennessy
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
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If there is one horse in the line-up for Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup who could become the best staying chaser in the country one day, it is probably Bobs Worth.
Nicky Henderson's tough gelding has been victorious at the last two Cheltenham Festivals - latterly beating First Lieutenant (who renews rivalry here) in the RSA Chase last March - and is currently third favourite in most books behind Sir Des Champs and Silviniaco Conti for the Gold Cup itself this season.
While seldom impressive, Bobs Worth has a habit of getting the job done as a record of seven winners from 10 starts proves though he will need to fulfil his potential to defy a mark of 160 in a Hennessy with a typically competitive look.
But this is a race that has often been won by a classy type - albeit under a big weight (the likes of Diamond Edge, Burrough Hill Lad, Bregawn, Brown Chamberlin, Suny Bay, Denman to name but a few) - and Bobs Worth is the horse this year who fits that bill.
To be honest, there are so many with chances but, on one bit of form last season, the bottom weighted Alfie Spinner is one to consider seriously as he was beaten less than three lengths behind a possibly below-par Bobs Worth when the pair were second and third at Ascot in February; Alfie Spinner is now 13lb better off despite being 2lb out of the long handicap.
I sense that the Nick Williams-trained stayer could be a leading player and improve dramatically on his reappearance third behind Roberto Goldback and Duke Of Lucca, again at Ascot, where Frisco Depot travelled strongly before falling three out.
But another big-priced lightweight also catches the eye and that is Ikorodu Road who was progressive last season, winning at Doncaster and over this course and distance.
Indeed, the nine-year-old has a solid course record having been placed here on four other occasions from seven visits, and would probably have made it another Newbury win but for falling at the final fence on a misty day here two seasons ago.
With a pipe-opener over hurdles under his belt (form working out), Ikorodu Road is worth a bit of each-way support at massive odds - he might even start the outsider of the entire field unless my punter gets stuck in!
However, it wouldn't surprise me if any of the following also went close: Hold On Julio shaped well when third at Cheltenham in October, Irish Grand National winner Lion Na Bearnai has already proved he can handle a race like this, Saint Are has been trained for the race and The Package looked to have returned in good shape when beating Michel Le Bon at Wincanton.
Additionally, Teaforthree - the mount of Tony McCoy - looks a bright stayer in the making (though possibly more of a Welsh National type) and top-weight Tidal Bay, so brilliantly brought back to form by Paul Nicholls, is capable of almost anything if he sets his mind to it. But previous winners Diamond Harry and Carruthers have something to prove now.
In conclusion, I think Bobs Worth is the horse with the greatest potential and suggest a win bet on him - and a greedy each-way on Ikorodu Road.
Earlier, Big Buck's looks to have a simple task as he bids to extend his winning run to 18 in the Sportingbet Long Distance Hurdle but there is an exciting clash at Newcastle where Cinders And Ashes and Countrywide Flame, winners of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle respectively at Cheltenham in March, cross swords in the Stan James.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Both of these horses have racing attitudes to die for and I particularly like Countrywide Flame, who returns to hurdling after a fine second on the Flat in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October.
Trifolium, third to Cinders And Ashes at Cheltenham but beaten at odds-on at Punchestown first time out, and Bothy make up the field - the latter shrewdly supplemented by trainer Brian Ellison who realised that, because of the wet weather (which has ruled out Rock On Ruby and Darlan) the race was likely to cut up to a small field.